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Writing the Short-Story 




New York City 




Copyright, 1908, 
By J. Berg Esenwein 

Copyright, 1909, 
By J. Berg Esenwein 

Copyright, 1918, 
By J. Berg Esenwein 



/ W0 I 





Foreword xi 

To Teachers xiii 

Historical Introduction I 


1. The Story-Teller I 

2. The Epic 2 

3. The Ancient and Medieval Tale , 4 

4. The Sacred Books of the East 5 

5. The Drama 6 

6. The Novel 6 

7. Other Literary Forms 8 

8. The Perfecters of the Short-Story 8 


1. The Short-Story and the Novel 10 

2. Reasons for Popularity 11 

3. The Influence of the Short-Story 12 


Chapter I. — What is a Short-Story 

I. What a Short-Story is Not 17 

1. Not a Condensed Novel , 19 

2. Not an Episode 23 

3. Not a Scenario 24 

4. Not a Biography 24 

5. Not a Sketch 25 

6. Not a Tale 26 

II. What a Short-Story is 30 

Exercises 32 

Chapter II. — Kinds of Short-Story 

1. Based on Types of Humanity 35 

2. Based on the Moral Nature 36 

3. Based on Occupations 36 




4. Based on Locality 36 

5. Based on Wonder 37 

6. Based on Social Classes 37 

7. Based on Emotion in the Story Z7 

Exercises 37 


Chapter I. — Choosing a Theme 

1. Spontaneous Choice . 42 

2. Seeking Out a Theme 44 

3. Themes Barred 45 

Exercises 49 

Chapter II. — Gathering the Materials 

1. Observation 52 

2. Experience 54 

3. Self-Study 56 

4. Reflection 57 

5. Reading 58 

6. Discussion 59 

7. Taking Notes 60 

Exercises 61 

Chapter III.— Fact in Fiction 

1. Types of Fiction 64 

(a) Realistic 

(b) Romantic 

(c) Idealistic 

(d) Composite 

2. Use of Facts 67 

Exercises 70 

Chapter IV. — Plot 

I. What is a Short- Story Plot 71 

II. Kinds of Plot 76 

1. Surprise 77 

2. Problem 78 

3. Mystery 79 

4. Emotion 81 

5. Contrast 82 

6. Symbolism , 83 



III. What Constitutes a Good Plot 84 

1. Simplicity 84 

2. Plausibility 85 

3. Originality 87 

4. Climax 89 

5. Interest 89 

Exercises 91 

Chapter V. — Plot Development 

I. Sources of Plot 93 

1. Characters 94 

2. Dramatic Incidents 95 

3. Impressionism 97 

II. Actual Plot Development 100 

Exercises 107 

Chapter VI. — How Stories are Told 

1. Third Person in 

2. First Person 115 

3. Letter Form 120 

4. Diary Form . 120 

5. Composite Form 121 

Exercises 124 

Chapter VII. — The Opening of the Story 

I. The Best Usage 126 

1. Opening with Dialogue 127 

2. Opening without Dialogue . 132 

II. Bad Usage 146 

Exercises 148 

Chapter VIII. — The Setting of the Story 

I. Setting in General 150 

II. Description to Convey Setting 152 

1. By Suggestion 154 

2. By Epithet ( 156 

3. By Hint 157 

4. Direct 157 

5. By Effects 157 

6. Figures of Speech 157 

7. Points of View 158 

8. Seven Steps in Description 159 



III. The Elements of Setting . 160 

i. Time 161 

2. Place 163 

3. Occupations 168 

4. Conditions 168 

5. The Setting Entire 170 

Exercises 172 

Chapter IX. — The Body of the Story 

1. Incident 174 

2. Emotion 181 

(a) Love Interest 

(b) Pathos 

(c) Mirth 

(d) Emotion in the Story 

(e) Emotion in the Author 

Exercises 197 

Chapter X. — The Body of the Story — Concluded 

3. Crisis 199 

4. Suspense 201 

5. Climax 203 

6. Denouement 205 

7. Conclusion 210 

Exercises 216 

Chapter XI. — Characters and Characterization 
I. The Characters 221 

1. Selecting the Characters 221 

2. Number of Characters 224 

3. Classes of Characters 226 

4. Relations 228 

5. Author's Attitude 229 

II. Characterization 230 

1. Effect to be Attained 230 

2. General Methods 231 

3. Specific Methods 237 

Exercises 241 

Chapter XII. — Dialogue 

1. Proportion 245 

2. Office 247 

3. Subject Matter 251 

4. Manner 252 

Exercises * . 261 


Chapter XIIL— The Title 


1. Functions 264 

2. Good Titles 266 

3. Titles to Avoid 270 

Exercises . . 273 

Chapter XIV.— Style 

General View 275 

Exercises 282 

Chapter XV. — Some Special Characteristics of the Short- 

1. Harmony of Tone 284 

2. Proportion 288 

3. Simplicity 289 

4. Compression 291 

Exercises 296 

Chapter I. — What is Originality 

1. The Test of Originality 300 

2. The Sources of Originality 302 

Exercises 305 

Chapter II. — Talent and Training 
Views of Eminent Writers 306 

Chapter III. — Acquiring a Vocabulary 

1. Study of Short-Story Models 318 

2. The Dictionary Habit ... 318 

3. Synonyms and Antonyms . . ■ 318 

4. Conversations on Words 321 

5. Translating Languages 322 

6. Study of Etymology , . 322 

7. Broad Usage 322 

Chapter IV. — The Study of the Short-Story — A Laboratory 


Critical Estimates of the Author Studied 324 

" The Necklace," by Guy de Maupassant 326 

Exercises 339 



Chapter I. — Writing the Story pAG _ 

i. The Management of Notes 344 

2. Revision 344 

3. Preparing the Manuscript 347 

Chapter II. — Selling the Story 

1. The Ordered Manuscript 352 

2. The Literary Agent 353 

3. Calling on the Editor 354 

4. Offering the Story by Mail 356 

Chapter III. — Why Stories are Rejected — a Colloquy 


Appendix A. — Collections of Short-Stories, Sketches, and 

Tales 375 

Appendix B. — One Hundred Representative Short-Stories 382 
Appendix C. — The Plots of Twenty Short-Stories . . 389 
Appendix D. — Digest of Rhetorical Rules Applicable to 

Short-Story Writing 414 

Appendix E. — Abbreviations of Publishers' Addresses . . 424 
Appendix F. — Books for a Fiction-Writer's Library . . 426 

Appendix G. — Bibliography 427 

Appendix H. — Supplementary Reading Lists, Added in 1918 432 
Geneeal Index 437 


The short-story, now the most popular literary form, is 
engaging the study of writers unnumbered, and the in- 
terest of an increasing host of readers. Its art is grad- 
ually crystallizing, its significance is deepening, and edu- 
cators everywhere are giving courses for its study. This 
volume embodies the practical principles of short-story 
structure as recognized by American and British maga- 
zine editors, and as practised by authors whose products 
are judged to be of the first order. At the same time, the 
body of sound scholarship has not been lost sight of in 
considering the popular and marketable short-story, so 
that the treatise is peculiarly adapted to the needs of col- 
lege and senior secondary-school classes, as well as suited 
to inspire and guide the individual writer, amateur or 
professional, who wishes to improve his art. Its prepara- 
tion has involved a critical examination of practically 
every great short-story now available in print, and many 
thousands of manuscripts read in the course of editorial 
service. Its conclusions, therefore, are seasoned with an 
intimate knowledge of the short-story at its best — and 
at its worst — to-day. The invaluable assistance of 
brother editors, and especially that rendered by the edi- 
torial staff of Lippincott's Magazine, is gratefully ac- 



knowledged ; as is also the discriminating criticism of 
Professor Albert E. Hancock, of Haverford College, 
who kindly reviewed the proofs. 

The Author 
Philadelphia, March 21, 1909. 


The changes made for this latest printing are confined 
to minor textual matters and to -the bibliographies. 
Otherwise the text remains the same. 

Springfield, Mass., Feb. 1, 1918. 


This treatise is confidently commended to you for 
class-room use because of several important considera- 
tions: Its inspirational method and logical order are 
based upon the best pedagogical approach; it covers the 
entire ground of the subject fully yet concisely; it is the 
work, not of a doctrinaire, but of a successful editor 
whose scholarship previously commanded attention in the 
college class-room and whose profession it has been for 
years to examine, purchase, edit and publish the short- 
story, as well as other literary forms ; its analytical meth- 
od at once reveals the road by which the author reaches 
his conclusions, and leaves a clear impression upon the 
student; its suggestive questions and exercises following 
each chapter, are not confined merely to the text, but will 
inspire and direct the student in original research, as well 
as suggest to the teacher other profitable lines along 
which such study may be followed, both in and out of 
the class-room; its comprehensive table of contents, and 
analytical summaries at the close of each chapter, pre- 
sent a clear view of the contents in whole and in part; 
its appendices and bibliographies are the most complete 
and helpful of any similar ones published; its "Labora- 
tory Method for the Study of the Short-Story" is 



original, and constitutes the foundation for a future vol- 
ume expanding this method, on which the author is al- 
ready at work; its typographical arrangement, para- 
graphing, references and indexing, present the whole 
subject and its related parts in so clear a manner as to 
facilitate lesson assignments, recitations and individual 
research; it actually teaches short-story writing, and not 
merely facts about the short-story — there is not a the- 
ory in the whole volume but has stood the exacting 
double-test of teaching value and of the best editorial 

The Publishers 


Brief tales there have been since the world began, since the 
art of the story-teller was first attempted, since the Cave-men 
filled the long evenings around the smoking fire with narratives 
of the mysterious deeds of the strange creatures of their own 
primitive fancy, since the earliest travelers who ventured abroad 
brought back episodic accounts of one or another of their misad- 
ventures, commingled of fact and of fiction. — Brander Mat- 
thews, The Short-Story. 

It is easy to understand why primitive men loved the short- 
story and why the teller of such stories had a crowd about him in 
the streets of Bagdad and Damascus ; and why medieval men and 
women delighted in the uncritical, loosely constructed tales in- 
cluded in the Gesta Romanorum. To the earliest men experience 
preceded reflection, the story of life began to unroll itself before 
there were any glossaries or commentaries ; the things which 
happened were the only real things ; and when the imagination 
began to open the windows and look out on the landscape of 
life, it saw everything from the standpoint of what had already 
happened. — Hamilton W. Mabie, Stories New and Old. 




I. The Story-Teller 

The story-writer is the lineal descendant of the story- 
teller. Before the earliest tale was committed to tablet 
or papyrus, the spinner of yarns was recounting the deeds 
of gods and heroes, celebrating the glories of ancestors, 
and inciting warriors to valor. It was the spoken story 
that whiled away the tedium of the winter camp, made 
supportable the heat of the summer market-place, and en- 
livened long evenings in the homes of prince and peasant. 

What manner of stories were these first attempts at 
narration? The childhood of the race is precisely pic- 
tured for us in the tendencies of the young folk of our 
times. The tale of incident and action appealed strongly 
to men in whose lives reflection was not yet a force ; fan- 
tasy could fly unhampered by the sober limits of fact; 
wonder-stories wedded the unknown to the known. To 
our early forebears the world seemed peopled with un- 



couth forces, mysterious presences, and supernatural be- 
ings, all delightfully free from present-day limitations. 
Every natural object, every natural power, hid — or dis- 
closed — some god-like personality who might do the 
most surprising things upon the instant. So, born of this 
condition are most of the Greek, Roman and Oriental 

With such materials ready to hand, with such fears, 
faiths and fancies thronging the mind and coloring life, 
what imaginative soul could refrain from weaving all 
this into story? The border-land between the known and 
the imagined was wide and its confines debatable, and if 
the protean story-teller had himself traveled, or warred, 
or suffered, he found within himself — just as does the 
yarn-spinner of to-day — an added spring from which to 
draw joyous draughts of invention. Indeed, the twen- 
tieth-century narrator might well envy his early predeces- 
sor the marvel-world in which he lived and more or less 
consciously gathered his materials; but the modern will 
find compensation in the wider and deeper worlds of . 
fantasy and of spirit which were closed to the unin- 
structed eye of the primitive story-teller. 

2. The Epic 

Loose and free and of slow growth, the epic poem was 
for centuries the dominant story-form. It took the wealth 
of material in which the ancient world abounded and 
strung the scattered stories upon a strand of personality. 
Thus a Ulysses or an ^Eneas became the hero of tales 


originally told of many another. From prehistoric times 
down to the years when the printed page spread the tale 
open before every eye, the resident or the traveling story- 
teller was almost the only purveyor of fiction, and he was 
" as welcome as is a visitor with recent magazines to a 
lighthouse on some distant and lonely island." 

Sometimes the story-teller dealt in prose forms, some- 
times he chanted the sonorous lines of long heroic poems, 
linking for a succession of days the several parts of his 
story. Often, in later centuries, his story took what I 
may call the continued-ballad form, and, in feudal 
Europe, Trouvere, Troubadour and Jongleur enlivened 
court and camp with accounts of some favorite hero's ex- 

So we find many really great stories in the famous 
epics 1 of all tongues, as well as in other poetic types, 
though in form they are primitive when compared with 
the developed modern short-story. Not until the spoken 
story was set down in writing, 2 polished, revised, re- 
revised, and printed, did we get the forms to which we are 
able accurately to trace our present artistic product. The 
modern short-story was long " a-borning," and its line of 
ancestry is ancient and honorable. 

1 For a concise classified list see the Standard Dictionary. The 
Book of the Epic, H. A. Guerber, contains a condensed yet suffi- 
ciently full prose narration of the essential stories or plot-action 
of all tiie prominent epics. 

2 The oldest recorded story is that found in The Westcar 
Papyrus, / 


3. The Ancient and the Medieval Tale 3 

Professor Baldwin 4 has pointed out that ancient and 
early medieval tales are of three kinds : the simple anec- 
dote, the scenario (or mere summary), and, very rarely, 
the real short-story. To this classification might be 
added the tale that strings together a group of anec- 
dotes, sometimes lengthening out indefinitely. Their 
chief difference one from another is length. With here 
and there a notable exception, the tales written previous 
to the nineteenth century lack the qualities which, as we 
shall see, constitute the chief merits of the modern short- 
story. And even when they were cast in that mold, 
there is no indication that they were especially admired, 
and certainly there was no attempt at reproducing their 
kind more and more perfectly, as the conscious literary 
artist does to-day. 

Beginning with the Egyptian papyrus stories, ranging 
from 4000 to 1000 B. C, down through the Hebrew, 
Greek, Oriental, and Roman tales of from 1000 B. C. to 
500 A. D., we observe the same general characteristics. 
The same is true of the tales of the Dark Ages, between 
the decline of the classical era and the dawn of the Renais- 
sance, which gave us all the fantastic legends and devo- 
tional tales of what we may call the French; and after 
that, the stories of the Renaissance period, and the mod- 
ern tale prior to Poe. The modern short-story is allied 

3 For a full discussion, with exhaustive lists and some speci- 
mens in translation, see Jessup and Canby's The Book of the 
Short Story. Also the Introduction to The Short-Story, Mat- 

4 American Short Stories, p. 26, 


to all of these by ancestry, in that they are preeminently 
simple, direct, and generally devised solely to tell a story. 
As specimens of pure narration they are often admirable, 
but short-stories they are not. 5 

4. The Sacred Books of the East 6 

The short-story of to-day draws rich life-blood also 
directly from the sacred writings of the Orient. Many 
of these narratives have, in varying forms, been current 
for centuries, their original source remaining by most 
readers unsuspected. The rich color, the fascinating 
movement, the mystical beliefs of the East, permeate 
these more-or-less religious tales and invest them with a 
charm often quite the equal of that which we feel in the 
familiar Arabian Nights. 

The Bible contains some of the purest specimens of 
art to be found anywhere, whether ancient or modern. 
When we examine the dramatic account of "The Prodi- 
gal Son," and the idyllic story of "Ruth," we must confess 
that modern art is powerless to approach their simple 
beauty and effectiveness. Quite apart from the rever- 
ence which these and other Biblical narratives inspire 
in many minds, it is a source of constant marvel that such 
venerable stories should have contained in large part the 
forecast of what writers are to-day striving after as 
standards. Undisputed, they take their place at the head 
of that small group of stories of all languages which, 

5 See chap. i. 

6 For a summary of " The Sacred Books of the East " .(the 
Bible excepted) see Summaries of Noted Books, in Charles 
Dudley Warner's Library of the World's Best Literature. 


though they are the product of earlier centuries, remain 
to-day the best examples of their sort. They prophet- 
ically antedated the schools to which, by an elastic phrase, 
they may be said to belong. 

Among the honored forebears of the short-story we 
must not fail to name also 

5. The Drama 

Primitive men, in common with children and adults 
who live much in their feelings, naturally dramatize — 
act out — their thoughts and emotions. Indeed, the 
drama must ever act out a story, and through thousands 
of years — for the drama is almost as old as the tale — 
the growth of dramatic art has tremendously contributed 
to the vividness, the intensity, the compressed power, the 
ingenuity of plot, and the emotional appeal of prose fic- 
tion both long and short. The printed play and the 
stage have neither time nor place for nonessentials — no 
more has the modern short-story; but it took yarn-spin- 
ners centuries to find this out; and many still refuse to 
learn the lesson. It must be left to a later chapter to 
dwell upon the service which the play and the playwright 
may render to the story-writer. 

6. The Novel 

It is no more exact to say that the novel is the father 
of the short-story than it is to allege, as did Bret Harte, T 
that the American short-story is " the germ of American 

7 Cornhill Magazine, July, 1899. 


literature to come." To assert either is to assert too 
much. But it must appear to all that the short-story and 
the novel meet at more points than any other two forms 
of narration. Of course they owe much to each other, 
but certainly the novel has influenced the short-story 
more than the short-story has thus far helped the novel. 
But the critic a hundred years hence will scarcely so pro- 
nounce. Already the characteristics of the best short- 
story form are apparent in current novels — often to 
their advantage, sometimes to their hurt. The two must 
not come too close, however, lest each lose its individual 

Not only are the novel and the short-story more nearly 
alike than any other two fictional forms, but for this 
very reason the novel has more strongly influenced the 
modern short-story than has any other literary type, not 
excepting the drama. While the short-story is essentially 
by far the older, the novel came to its own long before 
the short-story was recognized as a distinct species. Irv- 
ing, Poe and Hawthorne; Maupassant, Gautier and 
Merimee; Stevenson, Barrie and Kipling; and all that 
brilliant Continental school that made luminous the lit- 
erary history of the nineteenth century, drew inspiration 
and instruction from earlier novelists, more — incompar- 
ably more — than they ever did or could have done from 
all the writers of tales who preceded them. Upon the 
other hand, most of these and other nineteenth-century 
writers began the arduous climb of the novel-mountain by 
first essaying the scarcely less precipitous ascent of the 
short-story foothills. 


7. Other Literary Forms 

Doubtless, in greater or less degree all of the older 
literary forms have contributed to the short-story; but 
doubtless, too, those already adverted to have come more 
full-handed than any and all the others. The essay, for 
example, exhibits few points in common with the short- 
story, yet many short-stories (some of Hawthorne's, for 
instance, and some of Irving's tales) contain much essay 
material, while now and then an essay is cast in story 
form. The Spectator essay really embodied, now and 
again, so much narrative material as to make it a sug- 
gestive theme for study to-day. But all in all the kinship 
of the essay with the short-story is only that of a cousin. 8 

The lyric also has made its gift of direct personal ap- 
peal, and all poetry has set up standards of lofty thought, 
deep feeling and graceful expression. History, for its 
share, has given accuracy of background and setting — 
and so on to the end of the category. 

8. The Perfecters of the Short-Story 

A full study of this topic would involve too much space 
here, 9 but a few words may serve to point out the seven- 
league strides taken by story-writers during and since 
the second quarter of the nineteenth century. 

In 1819 Irving published "Rip van Winkle" — gen- 

8 See The Book of the Short Story, Jessup and Canby, p. 17. 

9 For fuller discussions see the Introduction to Baldwin's 
American Short Stories, and to The Book of the Short Story. 


erally, but not universally, admitted to be a short-story 
rather than a tale. In 1835 Poe produced " Berenice," 
and in 1842, in an article on Hawthorne's tales, 10 he im- 
pliedly claimed for the short-story the right to be re- 
garded as a distinct species. Though more or less per- 
fect short-stories had been produced at intervals for many 
centuries, Poe's keen criticism incited many to follow Irv- 
ing, Hawthorne, and the critic himself, thus originating 
a distinctive type of American short-story. 

In France, Nodier, Merimee and Balzac — and in a 
less degree Gautier and Musset — were rendering much 
the same service for the French short-story, though on 
somewhat different lines. 

Excepting the highly fantastic stories of E. T. A. Hoff- 
man, in Germany, the modern short-story developed later 
elsewhere on the continent and in Great Britain than in 
France and in America, so that the honor of perfecting 
the present genre must be accorded to America, France 
and Germany — in the order named, if we consider the 
importance of the work produced and the clear working- 
theories evolved. 


The short-story needs no apologist. It has won for it- 
self an honorable and honored place among literary forms 
and, what is more valuable, in the public heart. Evi- 
dently it has come to stay, and to stay in a class by itself. 

10 Graham's Magazine, May, 1842. 


I. The Short-Story and the Novel 

Irving said that he found the short-story a more diffi- 
cult form of composition than the novel " — though he 
never published a real novel. 

A distinguished American critic concludes that " The 
work of the writer of the short-story differs from theirs 
(novelists') neither in quality nor in completeness; it 
differs only in magnitude. It involves, if possible, a 
firmer grasp of situations, a surer touch, a more sensi- 
tive feeling for dramatic values." 12 

It is the opinion of Professor Brander Matthews that, 
" Although as a form of fiction the Short-story is not 
inferior to the Novel, and although it is not easier, all 
things considered, yet its brevity makes its composition 
simpler for the 'prentice hand." 13 

In concluding his admirable brochure, The Short 
Story, 1 * Mr. Henry Seidel Canby says : 

" Except in one instance, which is the vivid expression 
of single incidents or detached movements in life, the 
Short Story is not to be chosen before the novel ; but in 
its capacity for perfection of structure, for nice discrim- 
ination in means, and for a satisfying exposition of the 
full power of words, it is much superior to the novel, 
and can rank only below the poem. But the novel and 
the Short Story are distinct instruments, differently 

11 Life and Letters, Vol. II, p. 227. 

12 Hamilton W. Mabie, in the Introduction to Masterpieces 
of Fiction. 

13 The Philosophy of the Short-Stcry p. 51. 

14 Yale Studies in English. 


designed, for diverse needs. And with such a point of 
view it is impossible not to grant to the latter a separate 
use and classification." 

These opinions are representative, and indicate the po- 
sition to which the short-story has attained in seventy- 
five years. Indeed, it may be said that there has grown 
up a clearer critical conception of the ideal short-story, 
and a more general agreement among experts as to its 
essential characteristics, than have yet been reached re- 
garding the ideal novel. Naturally, attainment in the 
short-story form has been correspondingly higher among 
contemporary writers. 

2. Reasons for Popularity 

It is a different mood, perhaps even a different tem- 
perament, that prefers the short-story to the novel. The 
swift human appeal and the concise directness of the 
former suit it not only to our energetic and easily jaded 
modern spirit, but to our keener modern insight as well. 
We are less willing than formerly to have the obvious 
pointed out and the commonplace analyzed, even when 
these services are performed in a masterly manner, 
This, of course, is the mood of the busy reader, and of 
the languid or the impatient observer as well. The novel 
only will satisfy the desire for sustained observation. 

As touching the popularity of the short-story the mul- 
tiplication of popular magazines is at once a cause and 
an effect. The increasing demand for short-stories has 
encouraged new magazine ventures, resulting in a wider 


market for story-writers, and a decrease in the demand 
for novels. Naturally, so much writing means much 
poor writing; still, the tendency is upward, and maga- 
zine editors are becoming more and more critical of the 
stories offered to them, though it must be admitted that 
when called upon to choose between popularity and lit- 
erary quality the present-day editor is still likely to choose 
popularity. Writers of genius in increasing numbers 
find the rewards of short-story writing attractive, and 
this alone accounts for a marked advance in quality. 
When quality advances, appreciation broadens. Further- 
more, the growing love for art in all its forms stimulates 
interest in the short-story. The same artistic sense 
which in the public rejoices in the sharp clearness of the 
cameo-like story, and the delicate coloring of the fictive 
miniature, inspires the writer to finer work — and so pub- 
lic and author unite to perfect this fascinating art. 

In seeking for the reasons that underlie the remarkable 
popularity of the short-story we must not overlook the 
spirit of play which abounds in a world so devoted to 
work as is ours. In the humor of the short-story, as in 
its puzzles, its breathless adventures, and its love appeals, 
millions take daily recreation, and thus turn aside to a 
life of fantasy that softens the hard life of fact. 

3. The Influence of the Short-Story 

This beneficent mission of fiction makes more con- 
temptible the pandering viciousness of those writers who 
debase their gifts by presenting distorted views of life, 


placing false values upon the things of experience, and 
picturing unclean situations — all for the sake of gain. 
However, only a very small percentage of stories pre- 
sented to magazine editors are of such objectionable 
character; the great majority of fiction-writers are above 
these sordid temptations. The writer's search to-day 
is for reality and truth, and this responsibility he bears 
as nobly as could any other professional class. The public 
takes its short-stories seriously — even when the author 
is a humorist. Any manifest warping of truth is re- 
sented at once, so that even the farce and the dime 
shocker must seem to tell the truth. 15 

The influence of the short-story upon the novel has 
already been touched upon. Its power is even more evi- 
dent in the style of the daily newspaper, which serves up 
fact as fiction — and, it is alleged, fiction as fact. In the 
reporter's parlance everything is a " story," and the 
newspaper follows as closely as possible the methods of 
the breezy short-story writer. It may be answered that 
our most vivid fictionists were themselves trained in the 
newspaper field. But the fact remains, whatever be cause 
and what effect. Even the contemporary essay, the 
travel sketch, and the hybrid magazine article, have 
nursed at the short-story bottle, and are sprightly " in 
precise proportion." Thus the latest literary form to 
come to its own is contributing generously to our litera- 
ture and our life. In the words of Professor Albert E. 
Hancock, " it now holds chief attention and consumes 

15 See chapter on Fact in Fiction. 


most energy." The most polished fictionists engage in 
its production, the most respected magazines make room 
for it in their pages, it is welcomed by a myriad read- 
ers, and vast commercial concerns are interested in its 



1. The Story-Teller 

2. The Epic 

3. The Ancient and Medieval Tale 

4. The Sacred Books of the East 

5. The Drama 

6. The Novel 

7. Other Literary Forms 

8. The Perfecters of the Short-Story 


1. The Short-Story and the Novel 

2. Reasons for Popularity 

3. The Influence of the Short-Story 




Clear cut, with occasional plastic inspirations and moments 
of exquisite descriptive genius, Maupassant made himself the 
foremost master of the art of short-story writing in a group 
of writers who seemed to know instinctively the limitations and 
the resources of a literary form which exacts the nicest per- 
ceptions and the surest skill. He almost unerringly selected a 
single situation, related one or two characters vitally to it, 
suppressed all detail that did not contribute to portraiture, 
sketched a background with a few telling strokes, knit plot, 
character, situation, and denouement strongly together to secure 
unity of effect. — Hamilton W. Mabie, The Outlook, April 25, 

In the short-story of the first rank, power, skill, and in- 
vention combine to produce, with few materials, an effect simi- 
lar in definiteness and intensity to that which lies within reach 
of the masters of fiction alone. It deals, as a rule, with an 
episode rather than a complete movement of experience ; with a 
situation rather than with a series of events; with a single 
character rather than with a group ; it must be condensed with- 
out sacrifice of shading or atmosphere ; it must move swiftly to 
its climax, without any appearance of haste; it must omit the 
great mass of details, and yet leave nothing essential unsaid. 
It is not a study for a longer tale, nor is it a long story ab- 
breviated ; it is a work of art which has its own laws, its special 
qualities, its individual sources of charm ; it must stand complete 
in itself. — Hamilton W. Mabie, Introduction to Masterpieces of 





Now a story is something more than incidents and descrip- 
tions. It is a definite thing. ... It is such a reality that 
a man who reads it would carry away a definite impression. — 
F. H6pkinson Smith, quoted in Barrett's Short Story Writing. 

A definition is a dangerous thing. The more vital 
and growing and resilient a thing is, the more difficult 
to fence it about, to fix its limitations by statute. The 
short-story formed itself experimentally; it was not in- 
vented. Poe and Hawthorne were heirs of all that had 
gone before. So we may arrive at an understanding of 
the short-story form rather by observation than by defini- 

Certain things, clearly, the short-story cannot be, and 
because these are most often the very things inexperi- 
enced writers produce and label as short-stories, we 
shall first inquire, 


But here a word of caution. To deny that a certain 
sort of literary composition is a short-story is not to 



condemn it. It may be altogether admirable of its 
kind. Emerson's mountain made a very pretty squirrel 
track, but it couldn't crack a nut. It wasn't intended to. 
If an author prefers to write something other than 
short-stories, let him do so; he may write that one 
thing better than any other has yet done it, but he 
must not complain when he fails to sell his product as a 
short-story. There may be a market for his wares, 
but it is not the short-story market. 

The greatest sources of misapprehension on this score 
are — to imagine two illustrative cases — the contents 
of a given volume of some famous author's collected 
writings, and a copy of any popular magazine. The 
young student of the short-story takes up either of these 
miscellanies and finds, let us say, several types of ficti- 
tious narrative, all admirable, all artistic, but only one 
of which is really a short-story. Now, no one has ex- 
plicitly labeled the sketch a sketch, the anecdote an anec- 
dote, and the tale a tale, so the uninstructed reader may 
mistake any or all for what their authors never designed 
them to be, and what the editors knew perfectly well 
that they were not — short-stories. Not all black- feath- 
ered birds are ravens: to find a literary narrative in a 
high-class magazine, signed by a famous author, does not 
imply that it purports to be a short-story. What shall 
we do, then? Simply press our inquiry as to what a 
short-story is and what it is not, using our own judgment 
when we come to decide upon the form best for our indi- 
vidual use. 


I. The Short-Story Is Not a Condensed Novel 

Several popular magazines to-day publish complete 
novelettes monthly, which differ from novels only in 
their length, though both theme and method of handling 
are necessarily limited by the number of words permit- 
ted. Twenty-five thousand words is probably a fair av- 
erage for these little novels — some longer, some shorter 
— while nowadays the full-grown novel runs from 
eighty to a hundred thousand words. Many are still 
shorter, whereas only a few reach the old ordinary 
length of one hundred and fifty thousand words and up- 
ward. The day of the two- and three- volume novel 
happily seems to be past. 

But if the true novelette were compressed yet more — 
say to within half its present compass — it would still be 
a condensed novel and not a long short-story. 1 The real 
difference is in kind, not in length. 

(a) The short-story produces a singleness of effect 
denied to the novel. In his essay, " Hawthorne's 
Tales," 2 Poe writes as follows : 

iThe matter of nomenclature is always difficult when names 
have long been loosely used. There is one sort of so-called 
novel which in character is really only a long short-story. 
The Port of Missing Men, by Meredith Nicholson, and The 
Filigree Ball, by Anna Katharine Green, may serve as examples. 
This sort has scarcely any of the characteristics of the novel, 
and all of the nature of the short-story — except compression, 
both of plot and of scope. It lacks the breadth of the one with- 
out attaining to the concentration of the other. The greater 
number of ''novels" published to-day are of this type — light, 
ephemeral, episodic, improbable stories, intended to while away 
four idle hours. Quite the same is true of many novelettes. 

2 Graham's Magazine, May, 1835. 


" As it (the novel) cannot be read at one sit- 
ting, it deprives itself, of course, of the immense force 
derivable from totality. Worldly interests intervening 
during the pauses of perusal modify, annul or contract, 
in a greater or less degree, the impressions of the book. 
But simply cessation in reading would, of itself, be suf- 
ficient to destroy the true unity. In the brief tale, 3 
however, the author is enabled to carry out the fullness 
of his intention, be it what it may. During the hour of 
perusal the soul of the reader is at the writer's con- 
trol. There are no external or extrinsic influences — 
resulting from weariness or interruption. 

" A skilful literary artist has constructed a tale. If 
wise, he has not fashioned his thoughts to accommo- 
date his incidents ; but having conceived, with de- 
liberate care, a certain unique or single effect to be 
wrought out, he then invents such incidents — he then 
combines such events as may best aid him in establish- 
ing this preconceived effect. If his very initial sen- 
tence tend not to the out-bringing of this effect, then he 
has failed in his very first step. In the whole compo- 
sition there should be no word written of which the 
tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-estab- 
lished design. As by such means, with such care and 
skill, a picture is at length painted which leaves in the 
mind of him who contemplates it with a kindred art a 
sense of the fullest satisfaction. The idea of the tale 
has been presented unblemished, because undisturbed; 

3 By " brief tale " Poe doubtless means what in this treatise 
is called uniformly the short-story. 


and this is an end unattainable by the novel. 4 Undue 
brevity is just as exceptionable here as in the poem; 
but undue length is yet more to be avoided." 

Growing out of this need for simplicity, for totality 
of effect, is this further demand upon the short-story : 

(b) It must differ from the novel in scope and in 
structure. Speaking broadly, the novel is expansive, the 
short-story intensive. The great novelists sought " the 
all-embracing view " of life, the short-story writer looks 
upon a special — and often an exaggerated — character, 
incident, or experience. The canvas on which the true 
novelist paints is broader, accommodating more char- 
acters, who stand out upon a larger and more varied 
background. Thus in the real novel the reader is en- 
abled " to see life whole," in Matthew Arnold's ex- 
pressive phrase. Such a broad fictional outlook was 
Goethe's, rather than Poe's. Not any number of short- 
stories, however comprehensive and however skilfully 
related, could compass the universal life-record essayed 
by Balzac in his Comedie Humaine. 

The plot of the novel is often complicated by episodes 
and contributory sub-plots, whereas the short-story ex- 
ploits a single predominating incident, to which the 

4 Certain novels also leave a single compact impression upon 
the mind. Compare "The Fall of the House of Usher," which 
leaves a weird impression of a decaying family come to its final 
disaster — with Romola, whose general impression is simply the 
degeneration of Tito Melema. Both create unified impressions, 
but the novel also presents a broad cross-section of life. The 
unity of the one is composed of an infinite and wonderfully 
organized diversity, while that of the other is simple. The 
one is a diamond of many facets, the other a pearl. 


other incidents — few, if any — must be subordinate 
and directly contributory. 5 

Finally, the greater canvas and the more involved 
plot of the novel naturally mean a more leisurely move- 
ment than is possible in the short-story, though many 
sensational novels of the romantic type (not typical nov- 
els, and certainly not models in any sense) crowd incident 
upon incident with tremendous speed. But usually the 
realistic novelist takes plenty of time to make his char- 
acters philosophize on questions germane to the setting, 
or to advocate a cause, or to expose a condition. 

Not so the short-story. Since it must " move swiftly 
to its climax/' all its mechanism is simplified and di- 
vested of clogging parts. At first this necessity for 
compression may seem to hamper the writer, but in 
reality it offers greater freedom. Themes too slight for 
the sustained spirit of the novel, light bits of fantasy, in- 
tense but brief incidents of life, all make admirable 
grist for the short-story mill. Love, which permeates 
nearly all novels, whether romantic or realistic, is not 
a necessary accessory of the short-story. The details 
of life, character and setting, which the novelist paints 
in with minute attention, the short-story writer deline- 
ates with a few swift strokes — which must be all the 
more deft because they are so few. 

Thus, in its singleness of effect, in its more minute 

5 In his interesting Philosophy of the Short-Story, p. 16, Prof. 
Brander Matthews says: "A Short-story deals with a single 
character, a single event, a single emotion, or the series of 
emotions called forth by a single situation." This is a sugges- 
tive but extreme statement. 


scope, and in its simplicity of structure, the short-story 
proves itself to be something quite different from a mere 
condensed novel. 

2. The Short-Story Is Not an Episode 

We have seen that the novels of the eighteenth lacked 
the plotted unity of the works of the later century — 
that they differed from the tale chiefly in length and in 
the introduction of more episodes. Excerpt from Rod- 
erick Random, The Vicar of Wakefield, or Tom Jones, 
almost any one of the complete episodes with which they 
abound, and the extract might be called a short tale. Do 
likewise with many a complete episode from some mod- 
ern novels and you have the same. In neither case, 
however, would the episode exhibit the plot, the sense 
of coming to a point, of ending up, which is necessary 
to the short-story. To make a first-class short-story 
longer would be to spoil it. The reader feels the con- 
clusion and would not turn the page of the magazine 
to see if there is anything more. While the episode fits 
in with the rest of the novel, into which it was paren- 
thetically inserted to illustrate some phase of character 
or of conduct, the short-story is not meant to dovetail 
into a novel which is to appear later. 

To be sure, certain short-stories — notably detective 
stories nowadays — are linked in series ; but in each part 
the story comes to a full stop, a satisfying resolution — 
to use a musical figure. The connection with the other 
stories of the series is in the detective, perhaps, or in the 
lay expert, not in any relation of the plots. 


3- The Short-Story Is Not a Scenario, or Synopsis 

This is not very different from saying what has been 
said — that the short-story is not a condensed novel. 
Yet there is a distinction which a word will suffice to 

In plotting out a play or a novel the author may make 
a scenario. Or a synopsis may be made after the work 
has been completed. But such a skeleton would lack 
red blood as surely as it would be awkward and un- 
interesting, if not actually repellent. The play of char- 
acter, the pungency of conversation, the photography of 
description, would be absent. Many of the tales of the 
Decameron suffer for lack of these qualities. Compres- 
sion is essential, but it will not do to squeeze a story to 

4. It Is Not a Biography 

This would seem to be obvious, yet every editor re- 
ceives a surprising number of life-stories, complete from 
birth to burial, with no central incident, no unified ef- 
fect, to justify their writing. " Johnny Shark " 6 is 
such a biography — albeit the life of a diverting fish. 
" Marse Chan," by Thomas Nelson Page, one of the 
finest of our modern fictions, is a fictive biography 
rather than a short-story. 

Here I must again emphasize the importance of not 
concluding that a tale or a fictive biography may not be 
of the highest literary quality, and absorbingly interest- 

6 From The Strife of the Sea, by T. Jenkins Hains 


ing, because it is not a real short-story. Stevenson's 
" Will o' the Mill " must be generally considered as 
quite the equal of " Marse Chan," yet it is not purely, or 
even chiefly, a short-story — magnificent work of fiction 
as it is. 

5. It Is Not a Mere Sketch 

In the Vatican there are notable collections of pencil 
drawings by Michelangelo. Examine them and you will 
marvel at their delicate strength of line, their suggestive 
beauty will enchant you. But what is their final effect? 
General, only general. They tell no story; they leave 
with you no message ; they are incomplete sketches. 
The figures of sibyls and prophets, wonderful as they 
are as examples of pose, movement, and foreshortening, 
do not possess a narrative value. For that we must look 
to the Last Judgment, and the Biblical stories frescoed 
by this master in the Sistine Chapel. 

Again, when Ruskin criticised the brilliant color 
studies of Turner he refused to consider them as pic- 
tures, and though they hang to-day in the basement of 
the National Gallery in London under the same roof 
as the artist's completed masterpieces, still they remain 
what Ruskin knew them to be — mere records of color, 
studies of phases of color-truth, unorganized impres- 

Just so, whatever value word-sketches of character 
and atmosphere may possess — and many do have an 
incomparable value as impressionistic records, as sug- 
gestive studies — they are not short-stories, for in them 


nothing happens; they have neither essential beginning 
nor necessary ending; they leave no single completed 
impression; they lack the effect of totality on which 
Poe so constantly insisted. What more exquisite piece 
of descriptive prose narrative does the English language 
hold than Lafcadio Hearn's " Chita " ? And it perfectly 
illustrates the fictional sketch which is not a short- 

6. The Short-Story Is Not a Tale 

Once more the matter of nomenclature raises a diffi- 
culty. The terms " tale " and " short-story " are com- 
monly used interchangeably. Poe so uses them, Mr. 
Henry James loosely refers to novels as tales, and Pro- 
fessor Brander Matthews now and then indulges a free 
transfer of the expressions. Indeed, it will not do to 
be too precise here, for the tale readily drifts over into 
the short-story, and the latter into the former. How- 
ever, for the purposes of a treatise of this scope it seems 
necessary to make between these close kindred a dis- 
crimination which is more than academic, for to deny 
the distinction entirely is not to class the short-story 
as a separate literary species. 

Something concerning the tale — particularly as to its 
origin — has been said in the Historical Introduction to 
this volume, but now we need a definition: 

A tale is a simple narrative, usually short, having 
little or no plot, developing no essential change in the 
relation of the characters, and depending for its interest 



upon incidents rather than upon plot and the revelation 
of character. 
Here is an attempt at a grouping of 


(Classified an 

• to Purpose ) 









Strange Experience 





Either Didactic 


or Entertaining 


*True Story 

Whether designed to teach a lesson or to tell a story for 
entertainment, all of the foregoing general themes, when 
cast in the form of the tale, will be found to be simple 
narrative. Fundamentally they do not conform to Poe's 

T This classification must not be understood as implying that 
all short fictions on these general themes are tales and not 


important law, that the short-story should march in all 
its parts directly and swiftly toward a single impression. 
The tale admits of digressions, moral or amusing reflec- 
tions, and loosely-connected episodes ad libitum. The 
reader feels it to be, not a skilfully organized and com- 
pact unity, but a mere incident taken out of a larger ex- 
perience, more of which of similar kind might be related 
if the narrator would. 

Now it must be borne constantly in mind that the 
magazines to-day are printing many excellent tales, 
which touch in one, two, or three points the peculiar 
genre of the short-story, and in proportion as they do 
this more fully they become less the tale and more the 
short-story, until sometimes the " middle wall of par- 
tition " becomes like a hair — too thin to split. 

The best examples of tales which consciously seek the 
methods and the effects which we now credit to the 
short-story, are those of Washington Irving. Here and 
there, too, the same may be said of Chaucer's poetic 
Canterbury Tales and the stories of Boccaccio. In his 
Introduction to the Tales of a Traveler, Irving says: 
" For my part, I consider a story merely as a frame 
upon which to stretch my materials. It is the play of 
thought, and sentiment, and language; the weaving in 
of characters, lightly, yet expressively delineated; the 
familiar and faithful exhibition of scenes in common life ; 
and the half-concealed vein of humor that is often play- 
ing through the whole — these are among what I aim 
at, and upon which I felicitate myself in proportion as 
I think I succeed.'' 


In that exposition of his art, Irving erected the first 
critical half-way house between the tale and the short- 

Mr. Henry Seidel Canby 8 has thus summed up this 
distinction : 

" It might be asserted that what is loosely called the 
modern Short Story seems to differ from the old tale 
by a very scientific adaptation of means to end, which 
end may be called vividness, and by a structure which, 
in its nice proportions and potentiality for adequate ex- 
pression, is a more excellent instrument than anything 
the old tale can show ; and by an interest in situation, as 
a rule, rather than in simple incident. Also through 
the source, which is an impression or impressions, 
usually of a situation ; and the purpose, which is to fitly 
convey these impressions as well as to tell a story. 
* Ruth ' 9 will do very well as an example of the tale, ' The 
Purloined Letter ' 10 as a tale done into Short Story form, 
and ' Markheim/ 1X ' A Coward/ 12 or ' Without Benefit 
of Clergy/ 13 for the typical Short Story. If it is neces- 
sary to say what characterizes all of the shorter stories 
now being written, I should suggest that it is an attempt 
at greater vividness, and this attempt is made largely 
through those practices in composition which the en- 
deavor to convey fitly an impression has brought into 
common use." 

8 Introduction to Jessup and Canby's The Book of the Short 
8 Bible. 12 Maupassant. 

10 Poe. is Kipling. 

11 Stevenson. 



Having seen in what respects other narrative forms — ■ 
the novel, the episode, the scenario or synopsis, the biog- 
raphy, the sketch, and the tale — differ from the short- 
story, it will be a much briefer task to assemble its posi- 
tive qualities. 

The true short-story is marked by seven character- 
istics : 

1. A Single Predominating Incident. 

2. A Single Preeminent Character. 

3. Imagination. 

4. Plot. 

5. Compression. 

6. Organization. 

7. Unity of Impression. 

All of these either have been discussed in the negative 
exposition or will be touched upon later. Perhaps, then, 
it is time to attempt a definition: 

A Short-Story is a brief, imaginative narrative, un- 
folding a single predominating incident and a single 
chief character, * by means of a plot, the details of which 
are so compressed, and the whole treatment so organised, 
that a single impression is produced. 

In proportion as the short-story embodies and com- 
bines its seven parts artistically, that is to say harmo- 

14 Note the word chief. When two " chief " characters are 
strictly coordinate, as is rarely the case, the exception will 
merely sustain this element in the definition. 


niously and effectively, it is great. Not all great short- 
stories are great at all points. Though no unnecessary 
point should be included, and no important factor omit- 
ted, still its brilliant qualities may atone for its defec- 
tive parts. Thus criticism must be flexible and unpreju- 
diced. Suppose the London publishers had declined 
Dickens's novels because they exhibited grave defects! 

Do not forget that the whole is greater than the sum 
of all its parts. The completed result must possess a 
spirit all its Own, it must be almost a living personality. 
And who will analyze that for us and lay bare its vital 
secret? At every stage of our inquiry we must feel 
how impossible it is to saw up a story and find anything 
more than lumber, or to nail and glue its parts together 
and have aught other than a grinning Crandall clown. 
The story, the yarn, is the big thing. Unless the writer 
have a story to tell the telling of it is foolish contra- 

" But " — I hear some young writer say — " if the 
short-story is not all this and is all that, I am in despair. 
How shall I work with freedom within the bounds of 
so many fences ? " 

For reassuring reply look at the painter of pictures. 
Having passed through the times of thou-shalt-not and 
thou-shalt, he is all the freer to express his ideals with 
individuality. The body of rules he has learned is not 
so much with him consciously while he works, as that 
it has formed his standards and cultivated his ability 
to criticise himself. Beyond that, rules have no value, 
and, when slavishly adhered to, produce wooden re- 


suits. The canons of literary art are to serve as beacon 
lights, not as destructive fires. 



1. Not a Condensed Novel 

(a) Singleness of Effect 

(b) Differs in Scope and Structure 

2. Not an Episode 

3. Not a Scenario 

4. Not a Biography 

5. Not a Mere Sketch 

6. Not a Tale 


Seven characteristics, and definition. 


1. Should an editor decline to publish a brief story solely be- 
cause it does not conform to the standards of short-story form 
as set forth in such a treatise as this? Give reasons supporting 
your answer. 

2. Do you think that all writers of technically perfect short- 
stories are conscious of their art, or do some intuitively conform 
to good usage? 

3. Does a knowledge of rules help or hinder an original 
genius? Show how. 

4. Set down the points of likeness and of difference between 
the short-story and the novel. 

5. What is a picaresque novel? An episode? (See diction- 

6. Is there any difference in method between The Vicar of 
Wakefield and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes? 


7. Is Irving's " The Legend of Sleepy Hollow " a tale, or a 
short-story? " Rip Van Winkle " ? Why? 

8. Define the terms : (a) didactic, (b) a fable, (c) a para- 
ble, (d) an allegory, (e) a myth, (f) a legend, (g) an anec- 
dote. (See dictionary.) 

9. Is it always possible to put into words the final impression 
of a short-story? Illustrate. 

10. Write (a) a brief fairy story, (b) a parable, (c) a fable, 
(d) an anecdote, (e) a tale in imitation of a myth. 

11. Write a tale based upon (a) an adventure, (b) or travel, 
(c) or a legend, (d) or a psychic experience. 

12. Write a sketch showing (a) a phase of character, (b) or 
a bit of home life, (c) or an emotion. 

Note: Just now, do not bother about the later instructions of 
this volume, but write according to your present standards. All 
written work should be preserved, so that rewriting and develop- 
ment may be called for in connection with later study. 



Narrow as are its limits and exacting as are its requirements, 
the short-story holds up as many kinds of mirrors as life 
demands for the reflection of its numberless aspects and ex- 
periences. It affords, too, ample opportunity for subtle and 
penetrating analysis; for close and merciless study of morbid 
temperaments or vitally sympathetic portraitures of great natures 
contending with tragic conditions; for the segregation of a bit of 
significant experience and a finished presentation of its aspects 
and effects; for the detachment of a single figure from the dra- 
matic movement, and a striking sketch of its features and ges- 
tures; for the dissection of a motive so searching and skilful 
that its deepest roots are laid bare ; for effectiveness in bringing 
a series of actions into clear light in a sudden and brief crisis, 
and telling a complete story by suggestion; for the delicate im- 
pressionism which by vividness or charm of phrase and diffusion 
of atmosphere, magically conveys the sense of landscape; for 
the touch of humor concentrated on a person or an incident, and 
for the touch of tragedy resting like a finger of fate on an ex- 
perience or a character. — Hamilton W. Mabie, Stories New and 

It is as impossible as it would be useless to compile a 
descriptive catalogue of all the kinds of short-story. He 
who does not recognize the fundamental kinds can 
scarcely produce anything worthy of the name. Be- 
sides, kinds of story may mate in unsuspected variety — 
much to their profit. The army-story may be breathed 
upon by the spirit of sport and yet tickle the reader to 




tears. As to general sorts, either realism or romance 
consists with pretty nearly every kind of story; so do 
farce, comedy, tragedy, melodrama, and the tones that 
sound between; while love will consort with almost all 
known varieties. Thus these broad types must be re- 
garded as general spirits, rather than individual species. 
The following grouping — by no means exhaustive — 
may serve to stimulate the writer to invent fresh com- 
binations of motive, scope and setting. I may say in 
passing that the various kinds in large measure apply 
to the sketch, the tale, and the novel quite as closely as 
to the short-story. 


for Children 

t. Stories 
Based on 
Types of 







for Adults 

Start in Life 

Home and Family 




1 Whitcomb, in The Study of a Novel, appendix, differentiates 
over two hundred "types of prose fiction," without classifying 
them, however. 


2. Based on 
the Moral 

3. Based on 







" Labor 

Army and Navy 




J Real 
\ Pseudo 

r Travel 
Sports and Games 

Based on 













5. Based on 









6. Based on 


Social Classes. " 






7. Based on the 





Revenge, etc, 


1. (a) Select at least three short-stories from current issues 
of magazines and tell to what kinds they belong, (b) Point 
out the characteristics which led you to your decision. 

2. Which of the stories, if any, showed marks of more than 
one kind of story? 

3. Would they be helped or marred by conforming more 
closely to a single type? 


4. (a) Try to add several kinds of short-stories to the classi- 
fication given in this chapter, (b) Criticise the classification. 

5. Construct at least five combinations from the foregoing 
list, thus: A character-trades-comedy; a children's-adventure- 
fairy story. 

6. Which of the five seems most promising in material? 
Which next? 

7. Draw up a short plan for such a story. 

8. From memory — what kind of stories does Kipling gener- 
ally write? W. W. Jacobs? " O. Henry"? Mary Wilkins 
Freeman ? Henry James ? " Anthony Hope " ? " Mark Twain " ? 

9. Name your favorite short-story writer and tell the sort of 
stories he or she writes. 

10. Why do you like that particular sort? 

11. What kinds of stories predominate in the magazines now- 

12. Does this seem to you to be a bad or a good sign, and 




In literary as in all other art, structure is all-important, felt, 
or painfully missed, everywhere — that architectural conception 
of work, which foresees the end in the beginning and never loses 
Sight of it, and in every part is conscious of all the rest, till the 
last sentence does but, with undiminished vigor, unfold and 
justify the first — a condition of literary art, which ... I 
shall call the necessity of mind in style. — Walter Pater. 

I do not believe in hard and fast rules for the construction 
of stories. Methods of work must vary with individual tem- 
peraments. My own way of work naturally seems to me the 
most logical, but I realize that this is a question which each 
writer must decide for himself. Personally, I find it necessary 
to know the general course of a story, and above all to know 
the end before I can begin it. — Arlo Bates. 





First of all (I would say), my young friend, you should 
choose a truly American subject. All the critics say that this is 
essential. Americanism is what the age demands ; and it must be 
produced even if we have to invent a machine to do it. Do not 
go abroad for your theme. Do not trifle with the effete Euro- 
pean nightingale or ramble among Roman ruins. Take a theme 
from the great Republic; something that comes close to the 
business and bosoms of the Democracy ; something unconven- 
tional and virile. Take, for example, the Clam — the native, 
American, free-born, little-neck Clam. We all know it. We all 
love it. Deal originally and vividly with the Clam. — Henry 
Van Dyke, Some Reflections on the Magazines: a humorous 
address delivered before the Periodical Publishers' Association 
of America, Washington, D. C, April 17, 1904. 

The short-story is a vital force in the modern world, 
but more especially in the life of the American people. 
Multiform and complex as are the interests of our land, 
this latest form of literature is adequate to their ex- 
pression ; and we have only begun the development of its 
infinite resources. There are no limits to the range of 
theme suitable to the short-story, except only propriety 



and bigness. One might fill volumes in attempting to 
name the unending varieties of life, and their infinite 
interplay, which offer inviting subjects for the inter- 
preter's pen. Subtle analysis of motive, swift synthe- 
sis of character, merciless dissection of temperament, 
brilliant portraiture of types, humorous sketching of 
crudities, satirical thrusts at foibles, tragic march of fa- 
tality, delicate tracing of fancy, sure unfolding of emo- 
tions, robust depicting of achievement — all the free and 
unmeasured sweep of a myriad-sided nation dwelling 
in a young land of swiftly-changing color comes to the 
American story-artist, clamoring for delineation. There 
is no lack of fresh themes. 

But from this embarrassment of riches how does the 
writer select a theme? Doubtless, no two just alike; 
yet all methods of selection may roughly be included 
under either of two. For some writers 

I. The Theme Is Born Spontaneously 

That is, it may just " pop into your mind." Now and 
then this experience is so vivid as to amount to the joy 
of a great discovery. You may be doing anything or 
nothing, waking or sleeping, alert or apathetic, when 
suddenly a spirit arises before you from nowhere and 
cries : " Sir, Madame, I am a Story. Write me up ! " 
Then there is no rest until the story is shaped and spread 
upon paper. 

Naturally, a well-furnished mind is the most likely to 
produce story-germs in this manner, hence all the pother 


in the succeeding chapter about " gathering materials." 
It would be an interesting psychological study to try 
to determine just how far this spontaneous birth of a 
theme is the result of suggestion from without, operat- 
ing upon the mass of materials already a part of the au- 
thor's mental, moral, and emotional equipment. 

At other times we may readily trace the inspiration 
to its source-spring. A look, a word dropped in con- 
versation, an incident on the street, a paragraph in the 
newspaper, an apt retort, an emotional mood, a clever 
sentence in a book — from any of a thousand and one 
points of contact may flash the gleam of conviction: 
There is a story in this! 

Again, the germ will develop more slowly — much 
more slowly — and months, even years, elapse before 
the tiny suggestion becomes a full-fledged story-theme, 
ready for elaboration. Wise is that writer who pa- 
tiently awaits the hour of full-coming before attempting 
to write; for with the fresh, inspiring, self-born theme 
fully matured in the mind, and — I want to add — in 
the heart, half the battle is won. 

But inspiration is not always on call. Who was it 
that likened his mind to a mule which habitually ran 
when he wished it to stop and as regularly balked 
,when he longed for it to run? So, if a story is due 
at the editor's on Tuesday after next, and no obliging 
theme has presented itself, or those which have applied 
have not been found worthy, then the author has no 
other recourse than 


2. The Theme Sought Out 

Here invention is put to it for originality. Writers of 
wide acceptance have freely confessed that they have 
driven a host of ideas from Dan to Beersheba until 
one has yielded up the coveted theme. Then the seven 
sources of material x are tried in order — and seventy- 
seven others, in disorder. Still no theme. Every possi- 
ble motive, every impossible emotion, every conceivable 
situation, every inconceivable complication — all tried and 
all pronounced " stale, flat and unprofitable." At last 
(why is the head more inventive when under a hat 
in the open air?) a walk abroad brings the decision to 
a focus: the theme is found! 

" I know one writer," says George W. Cable, " who 
even for a short story has sat for weeks in feline pa- 
tience and tension at the mouse-hole of his constructive 
powers, knowing only that the inspiration was in there 
and had to come out." 2 

The author's brain is quite a magician's top hat, into 
which he puts all manner of things only to take out, 
for the delight of an audience (not always large or se- 
lect, but always worthy of study) a store of altogether 
surprising things, altogether transformed. 3 " The Piece 
of String" (Maupassant), " The Gold Bug" (Poe), " A 

1 See the next chapter. 

2 Afterthoughts of a Story-Teller, North American Review, 
January, 1894. 

3 Naturally, the writer's purpose in telling a story — whether to 
please, instruct, chastise, tickle the public, or just to express 
something worthy of expresssion — will bear strongly upon his 
theme selection. See p. 284. 


Church Mouse" (Mary Wilkins Freeman), and "The 
Leather Funnel " (Doyle), are not only clever titles of 
stories drawn from master necromancers' hats, but, as 
titles, indications of the ideas that may have suggested the 
stories. How fascinating it would be if each of a dozen 
well-loved writers would give us the intimate life-his- 
tory of his best fiction, from inspiration down to pub- 
lisher's check; yes, and through the years afterward, 
when its grip upon the readers had surely yet impal- 
pably drawn them to open up their heart of hearts in 
confession, in thanks, in protest, in — what not! 

3. Themes Barred 

Since nearly all the short-stories that attain to print 
are published in newspapers and periodicals, it would 
seem that an author who is anxious to see his story in 
type should consider the limitations set by the public — 
the real masters of the editor. Yet, on various pleas 
authors persist in offering for publication stories on 
themes entirely unsuited to publication in any periodi- 
cal of general circulation. Occasionally one is accepted, 
either by mistake or from sheer determination to print 
the story because it is " good stuff," however Mrs. 
Grundy may view its subject. But the doubtful theme 
usually has but little chance with an editor. 

Only a general grouping of subjects which are taboo 
can be attempted here. 

(a) Trite Themes. Hackneyed subjects now and 
then are treated in so original a manner as to bring the 


whole story above the commonplace level, but that is a 
performance too unusual for even a genius to dally with 
often. Editors and public tired long ago of the poor boy 
whose industry at last brought him the hand of his em- 
ployer's daughter ; the pale-faced, sweet-eyed young thing 
whose heroism in stamping out a fire enabled her to pay 
off the mortgage; the recovery of the missing will; the 
cruel step-mother; answering a prayer which has been 
overheard; the strange case of mistaken identity; hon- 
esty rewarded; a noble revenge; a child's influence; 
and so on to a long-drawn-out end. Naturally, nothing 
but a fair acquaintance with the short-stories of the last 
two decades, together with a nice sense of values, will 
save the writer from choosing trite subjects. I know 
of no printed list of hackneyed themes ; the surest teach- 
ers are common sense, a wide reading, a friendly critic, 
and the printed rejection slip. 

(b) Improper Themes, The buyer of a book may 
know for a certainty whether it discusses matters which 
he prefers his children should not read — the reviewer, 
or his friends, or his book-seller, will tell him. But this 
is rarely so when he buys a magazine. If he has sub- 
scribed for it, he has bought twelve cats in a bag and he 
has a right to expect that they should prove to be of sim- 
ilar parentage. If he buys a single copy, nothing but the 
titles, the authors' names, and the reputation of the maga- 
zine can guide his selection. Now it is this very ques- 
tion of reputation that bars certain themes from certain 
magazines, arid it is quite as important for the writer to 


recognize these magazine reputations as it is for the 
reader. 4 

It is not for me to decide as to whether the short- 
story should deal with the intimate subjects of self 
and sex. Some of the most effective French stories 
handle these topics with utmost freedom, and certainly 
it requires some bravery to say certain needful things 
in the form of fiction ; but by common consent the Ameri- 
can magazine steers clear of the " taboo," leaving to 
the novel those themes which divide public judgment. 
True, a theme of great and serious intimacy may be 
treated with frankness and yet not give offense, while 
a conventional subject may be handled with nasty sug- 
gestiveness. The magazines that will accept the former 
sort are few, but unmistakably high class; those that 
print the latter are few and — unspeakable. One thing 
is quite intolerable: to treat a "broad" subject with 

Speaking to this subject, Dr. Frederic M. Bird says: 

" Then there is the improper tale, which is of two 
classes. In one the author means to be bad, and in most 
cases goes about it delicately: in the other, ladies of 
the highest character write, from the purest motives, to 
expose the evils of free love } or the wickedness of men, 
or the dangers to which working girls are exposed, or 
some other abuse of sexual attractions or affections. 
The public, which takes less account of intentions than 

4 See Part IV, chap. ii. 


of results, is apt to merge these in one common con- 
demnation, confounding the salacious with that which 
is meant to be merely monitory." 5 

(c) Polemic Themes. The novel may freely take up 
the cudg 1 in defense of a sect, a party, a cult, or a 
" crankism," but the short-story writer had better avoid 
polemics. " Genius will triumph over most obstacles, 
and art can sugar-coat an unwelcome pill ; but in nineteen 
cases out of twenty the story which covers an apology for 
one doctrine or an attack upon the other has no more 
chance (with the periodicals) than if it were made up of 
offensive personalities." 6 

(d) Unfamiliar Themes. By this I mean themes with 
which the author is not on intimate terms. The number 
of writers who fly from familiar subjects to themes they 
know not of, is legion. The beginner rushes in where 
genius fears to tread. If you are really anxious not to 
waste your time, don't attempt too much. Time spent on 
studying your subject will come back with compound in- 
terest when you actually write. Find your own field. 
Cultivate every square inch of it. Don't be tempted to 
try the field next door without first finding out all about 
it. It is necessary to be interested in your theme, but dis- 
tinguish between superficial curiosity and an interest 
that is genuine. The stay-at-home cannot write battle 
scenes — usually. The recluse cannot depict society- 
life — usually. You may be the exception, but the 

5 Lippincott's, Nov., 1894. 

6 Magazine Fiction, Frederic M. Bird, Lippincotfs, Nov., 1894. 


chances are that you are not. It is better to write well 
of what you know than badly of what you do not know. 
Some things you can imagine, some things you cannot. 
Don't confuse the two. One of the most damning criti- 
cisms of the editorial office is — " this writer doesn't 
know his field." 

Choosing a Theme 

i. The Theme Born Spontaneously 

2. The Theme Sought Out 

3. Themes Barred 

(a) Trite 

(b) Improper 

(c) Polemic 

(d) Unfamiliar 


1. Extemporaneous. Set down as many themes as " pop into 
your mind" in ten minutes. (Naturally, you must not expect 
startlingly original ideas to bloom in this way.) 

2. Select two of these and perfect the statement of them in 
not more than a sentence or two each, preserving them for use in 
connection with the chapters on plot. 

3. Examine the chains of ideas to discover, if possible, what 
gave rise to the themes. 

4. Make a list of themes which seem to you to be hack- 

5. Have you seen any of these used lately? Where? 

6. Select one hackneyed theme from any magazine or story- 

7. Is it well handled? 


8. If possible, show how a fresher treatment would make it 
more readable. 

9. Does the moral impropriety of a theme consist in the 
theme itself or rather in its handling? Discuss. 

10. Make a list of polemic themes which seem to you unsuited 
to the short-story form. Be prepared to give your reasons in 
each instance. 



Of an eminent master in eloquence and letters this is said: 
" He habitually fed himself with any kind of knowledge which 
was at hand. If books were at his elbow, he read them; if 
pictures, engravings, gems were within reach, he studied them ; 
if nature was within walking distance, he watched nature; if 
men were about him, he learned the secrets of their tempera- 
ments, tastes, and skills ; if he were on shipboard, he knew the 
dialect of the vessel in the briefest possible time; if he traveled 
by stage, he sat with the driver and learned all about the route, 
the country, the people, and the art of his companion; if he had 
a spare hour in a village in which there was a manufactory, he 
went through it with keen eyes, and learned the mechanical 
processes used in it." — Hamilton W. Mabie, Essays on Books 
and Culture. 

The writer is first of all a citizen of the world, with 
eyes alert to explore its delights, its sorrows, and its 
mysteries. No other ever has a yarn to spin. Next, 
he turns his gaze inward. Lastly, he studies books. 
If you must omit one of these three processes, let it 
be the last. 

Once convinced that somewhere in you are a theme, 
a story, and the spirit of a story-teller, the first step 
would seem to be simply the telling of the story. Log- 
ically, yes; practically, no. To do so would be to ig- 
nore the fact that skilful story-telling is now a fine art, 



and badly-told stories had better remain untold — as 
they generally remain imprinted. Before giving forth, 
you must prepare by taking in, even if that preparation 
should be quite unconscious. 

The general question of the author's preparation for 
his work must be discussed in succeeding chapters, 1 
but it should be said here that a primary requisite for 
successful authorship is the fixed habit of both training 
and furnishing the mind for the author's work. All 
things must be looked at with an eye to their possible 
literary use, so that daily life may become a daily stor- 
ing up of materials, whether with a single story in view 
or merely to enrich the treasure house against the day 
when some chosen theme will call forth its utmost re- 
sources. So bear in mind, in all that follows, that your 
gathering will have either a particular or a general ob- 

In this process the first and longest step is 

I. Observation 

Get the facts. If you can, get them at first hand. 
They will hit you harder, and, through you, hit your 
readers harder, if you have gone straight to the original 
for your knowledge. Ruskin took a common rock-crys- 
tal and saw hidden within its stolid heart a world of 
interest. Thoreau sat so still in the shadowy woods that 
birds and insects came and opened up their secret lives 
to his eye. Preyer for three years studied the life of 

i Part III. 


his babe and so became an authority upon the child- 
mind. Sir Walter Scott, in preparing to describe Guy 
Denzil's cave, in Rokeby, observed " even the peculiar 
little wild flowers and herbs that accidentally grew round 
and on the side of a bold crag." When Lockhart laugh- 
ingly wondered at this minuteness of study, the Wizard 
replied that " in nature herself no two scenes were ex- 
actly alike, and that whoever copied truly what was 
before his eyes, would possess the same variety in his 
descriptions, and exhibit apparently an imagination as 
boundless as the range of nature in the scenes he re- 
corded; whereas — whoever trusted to imagination, 
would soon find his own mind circumscribed, and con- 
tracted to a few favorite images." 2 

" Whoever has done literary work," says Arlo Bates, 3 
" is likely to have discovered how constantly the literary 
mind must be on the alert. The daughters of the horse- 
leech that in the Scriptures are said continually to cry 
i Give ! Give ! ' are less insatiable than is the greedy 
pen of the professional writer. Like the grave, it has 
never enough. He who makes literature a profession 
must take for his model the barnacle at high tide. As 
that busy and tireless unpleasantness grasps ceaselessly 
with finger-like tentacles, so the mind of the writer must 
be always reaching out — grasping, grasping, grasping 
— until the accumulation of ideas, of facts, of impres- 
sions, with the realization that this is literary material, 
becomes a second nature." 

2 Lockhart's Life of Scott, Vol. IV, p. 20. 

3 Talks on Writing English, p. 147. 


And Professor Genung has given us this: 

" The spirit of observation as applied to the world in 
general, outer and inner, is practically identical with 
what is called . . . the scientific spirit in the large 
sense, with all the enthusiasm, the sense of values, the 
accuracy, the verifying caution, that characterize the 
born observer." 4 

But the story-writer will find quite as much suggestive 
material in observing human nature as in studying the 
lower orders of creation. With the works of the great 
analysts to serve as models and stimulate the writer to 
emulation, surely no further word is needed. Here 
indeed is a field for applied psychology, second to none 
other. Myriads of interesting men and women are 
waiting for some master hand to pluck out the heart 
of their mystery. Holman Day, Mary Wilkins Free- 
man, and " O. Henry," have not " used up " all the 
unique characters in America. 

It may be urged that all this elaborate and minute 
observation would serve rather to equip the novelist 
than the writer of short-stories. Not so. No one can 
compress into a few bold strokes the essentials of a por- 
trait, who has not first taken in with precision all the 
nonessentials. The work of literary selection is really 
a work of rejection. 

2. Experience 

" Mark Twain deliberately threw away his [Euro- 
pean] street-car ticket fifteen times, and each time was 

* The Working Principles of Rhetoric, p. 397. 


required to pay his fare. He made five hundred dollars 
from the story which he based upon this simple inci- 
dent" 5 In Vawder's Understudy, James Knapp Reeve 
tells the story of an author who entered open-eyed into 
a platonic friendship for the purpose of observing re- 
sults. The results were observable. In Tommy and 
Grizel, Tommy the sentimentalist-author, makes a num- 
ber of startling essays at the laboratory method of gath- 
ering literary material. 

Doubtless all these and similar experiences are ex- 
ceptional rather than typical. Experience may be de- 
liberately sought, and often should be, as in the cases 
of the authors of The Workers? The Woman Who 
Toils, 7 and similar books ; but for the most part the really 
valuable experience is that into which our daily walk 
leads us. There we shall find an abundance of the " lit- 
eratesque," 8 without more than an occasional prolonged 

5 The Short-Story, Albright, p. 15. 

6 Professor Walter Wyckoff. 

7 Marie Van Vorst and Mrs. John Van Vorst. 

8 "There should be a word in the language of literary art to 
express what the word ' picturesque ' expresses for the fine arts. 
Picturesque means fit to be put into a picture ; we want a word 
literatesque, 'fit to be put into a book/ An artist goes through 
a hundred different country scenes, rich with beauties, charms 
and merits* but he does not paint any of them. He leaves them 
alone ; he idles on till he finds the hundred-and-first — a scene 
which many observers would not think much of, but which he 
knows by virtue of his art will look well on canvas^ and this 
he paints and preserves. . . . Literature — the painting of 
words — has the same quality, but wants the analogous word. 
The word ' literatesque ' would mean, if we possessed it, that 
perfect combination in the subject-matter of literature, which 
suits the art of literature. ... As a painter must not only 
have a hand to execute, but an eye to distinguish — as he must go 
here and there through the real world to catch the picturesque 
man, the picturesque scene, which is to live on his canvas — so 


excursion into atmospheres far removed from our own. 
Growing out of observation and experience, as sources 
of literary materials, is 

3. Self-study 

" Sir Philip Sidney had a saying, ' Looke in thy heart 
and write ' ; Massillon explained his astute knowledge of 
the human heart by saying, ' I learned it by studying my- 
self ' ; Byron says of John Locke that ' all his knowledge 
of the human understanding was derived from studying 
his own mind. ' " 9 

One peril lies along this path, however, and to it the 
famed author of Childe Harold fell a victim; its avoid- 
ance is a mark of real greatness. All that Byron ever 
wrote was so tinctured with his own personality that the 
reader must see the author's portrait in his characters. 
They all do and think and say very nearly what Byron 
would, under like conditions. Maupassant fell into the 
same trap, as did Poe and Hawthorne, though in less 
degree. 10 All morbid and self-centered artists are pe- 
culiarly liable to study self so exclusively that self be- 
comes their microcosm. A certain amount of this self- 
centric spirit is inevitable, but to dress and undress one's 
soul too persistently leads to mania, and may be allowed 
to epoch-making geniuses rather than to the rank and 

the poet must find in that reality, the literatesque man, the litera- 
tesque scene which nature intends for him, and which will live 
in his page." — Bagehot, Literary Studies, Vol. II, pp. 341, 343, 345 
9 From the Author's How to Attract and Hold an Audience 
p. 55. (Hinds, Hayden & Eldredge, New York.) 
10 See p. 248. 


file. Yet what marvellous short-stories have Poe, Haw- 
thorne, and Maupassant given to the world by their 
morbid introspection! The golden middle-path, as 
Horace put it, is better for the average writer — if such 
a person there be. 

4. Reflection 

Here we have a calmer, saner mental habit than mor- 
bid self-scrutiny. Reflection is a rich word, which car- 
ries its meaning in a figure. How placid and clear the 
mind must be to summon to its magic mirror images 
of past days and find them projected there in all their 
pristine color, form and detail. Memory is the soul 
of reflection, just reason its limbs and members. This 
ability to withdraw oneself from the hurly-burly and 
reflect — re-image — gives us a palpable connection be- 
tween the real and the fancied. Imagination calls up 
its phantom-world out of the mirror of past experience, 
adding to the real the touch of fantasy, and even creat- 
ing beings and cycles the like of which " never was on 
sea or land." Reflection and imagination both need to 
be nurtured with the food of solitude and humored by 
oft-practice ; and both repay the time and care be- 

In Afterthoughts of a Story-Teller,' 11 George W. 
Cable says : " No author, from whatever heaven, earth, 
or hell of actual environment he may write, can produce 
a living narrative of motives, passions and fates without 

11 North American Review, 158:16. 


having first felt the most of it and apprehended it all, 
in his own inner life." You see, experience may in a 
sense be vicarious — the " inner life " may apprehend 
experiences that the body has never realized. 

5. Reading 

" Reading maketh a full man," said much-quoted Ba- 
con; but it depends upon the reader as to what he will 
be full of — other men's ideas, or a dynamic store of 
fact and fancy. Writers do not read too much; they 
digest too little. A prodigious diet of reading, assimi- 
lated into brain and heart, cannot but be of vast assistance 
in all future creation. But to be the slavish imitator 
of those whom you read is the sign-manual of inferi- 

Here is an enthusiastic word from Professor Phelps, 12 
supported by a warning from Emerson. 

" Voltaire used to read Massillon as a stimulus to pro- 
duction. Bossuet read Homer for the same purpose. Gray 
read Spenser's * Faerie Queene ' as the preliminary to 
the use of his pen. The favorites of Milton were Homer 
and Euripides. Fenelon resorted to the ancient classics 
promiscuously. Pope read Dryden as his habitual aid 
to composing. Corneille read Tacitus and Livy. . . . 
With great variety of tastes, successful authors have gen- 
erally agreed in availing themselves of this natural and 
facile method of educating their minds to the work of 
original creation." 

lz Men and Books, p. 303. 


" Books are the best of things, well used ; abused, 
among the worst. What is the right use? What is 
the one end which all means go to effect? They are 
for nothing but to inspire. I had better never see a 
book than to be warped by its attraction clean out of 
my own orbit, and made a satellite instead of a system." 
Emerson here 13 uses the enthusiast's license to exagger- 
ate, but it is a wholesome hyperbole and will not frighten 
the sensible reader out of a respect for the information 
as well as the inspiration to be found in books. 14 In the 
same essay, a little farther on, he adds another pungent 
word : " One must be an inventor to read well. As 
the proverb says ' He that would bring home the wealth 
of the Indies must carry out the wealth of the Indies/ 
There is then creative reading as well as creative writ- 

There remains yet another potent field for the gather- 
ing of short-story material: 

6. Discussion 

Hawthorne's notebooks refer again and again to talks 
over plots, incidents, and characters, held with literary 
friends. Sometimes he definitely credits certain material 
to a suggestion received in such discussions. Many a lit- 
tle restaurant table, many a " Bohemian " garret, could 
tell fascinating tales of how stories were born and brought 
unto strength by a helpful exchange of suggestion and 

13 The American Scholar. 

14 See Part III, chap. i. 


criticism. As there is nothing so blinding to a writer 
as to read his manuscript to adulating friends, so there 
is nothing so illuminating as the good-natured slashes 
of a discerning critic — the entrance of such cutting 
words giveth light. It was Francis Bacon who dis- 
coursed upon the educational value of asking questions 
from the man who knows, and Li Hung Chang who put 
the advice into effective use. 

But how shall we preserve for ourselves the results 
of observation, and experience, and self-study, and re- 
flection, and reading, and discussion? The answer is 
too obvious to need elaboration: 

7. Taking Notes 

Let it be scrap-book, card-index, index-rerum, envel- 
ope system, or filing cabinet ; only in some way — loosely 
or precisely, on your cuffs or in elaborate records — 
preserve your own random thoughts and the facts and 
ideas you get from every source. See what even a news- 
paper item may mean to you : 

" A short-story should have for its structure a plot, a 
bit of life, an incident such as you would find in a brief 
newspaper paragraph. . . .' He [Richard Harding 
Davis] takes the substance of just such a paragraph, and, 
with that for the meat of his story, weaves around it 
details, description and dialogue, until a complete story 
•is the result." 15 

15 How to Write Short Stories. An Interview with F. Hop- 
kinson Smith in the Boston Herald, quoted in Current Litera- 
ture, June, 1896. 


•Gathering the Materials 

1. Observation 

2. Experience 

3. Self -Study ' 

4. Reflection 

5. Reading 

6. Discussion 

7. Taking Notes 


1. After one glance out of a window, set down as many differ- 
ent objects as you remember seeing, going minutely into detail. 

2. Take a longer look and correct your paper. 

3. In what respects do two — any two — of your friends 
differ (a) in dress, (b) manner, (c) disposition? Be precise 
and minute. 

Note : Interesting tests of the powers of observation may be 
made by asking the pupils to tell the color of a friend's eyes, 
how many rungs are in the front of his chair, how many steps 
lead up to the piazza, the kind of numerals on the face of his 
watch, and the like — all without specially looking. 

4. Search for evidences of superficial observation in the short- 
stories of any current magazine. 

5. Write out any unusual experiences which seem to you to 
be " literatesque." 

6. Discussion: Should the writer deliberately go out after 
adventures and experiences, or simply be observant of what he 
meets in the usual course? Give reasons "pro and con." 

7. Write about two hundred words showing how " self-aware- 
ness " is a good source of fictional material. 

8. Write several paragraphs reporting accurately what you 
are now thinking. Continuously press in upon yourself the 
question, What am I now thinking? 

9. Do an hour's deliberate reading, following your own 
choice, and report the result, carefully noting such materials as 


suggest incidents, characters, scenes, sayings, and plots, for short- 
stories. Do not seek for quantity, but for quality. 

10. General report: What kinds of reading proved most 
stimulating — history, essays, poetry, drama, fiction? 

ii. Let the instructor assign to the students, individually, 
the task of suggesting how scrap-books, card-indexes, etc., may 
be kept. 

12. Gather at least five newspaper cuttings which contain raw 
material for short-stories, pointing out their particular qualities. 



Prefer an impossibility which seems probable, to a probability 
which seems impossible. — Aristotle. 

It may be said boldly that fiction is truer than fact. Half the 
difference of opinion on the whole subject rests upon a mental 
confusion between two things, fact and truth — fact, the mass 
of particular and individual details; truth, that is of general 
and universal import — fact, the raw material; truth, the finished 
article into which it is to be made up, with hundreds of chances 
of flaws in the working. — R. G. Moulton, Four Years of Novel 

AW fiction is fabricated from fact. Running through 
its every part are strands of reality without which, as 
warp and woof, it would fall apart at the reader's touch. 
If only some master of fiction would frankly speak out 
and tell us in what precise proportions fact and figment 
should be mixed in weaving the short-story. But the 
wisest author cannot prescribe a fixed formula. It is a 
problem that more or less consciously arises with the 
telling of every story, and personal observation must 
guide the judgment. Doubtless actual happenings do 
occur once in a long time in precisely the order, pro- 
portion, and setting, to make a good story without alter- 
ation; but is there just enough expressive conversation, 
local color, and incident, to allow the actualities to be 



photographically reproduced and yet result in a good 
short-story? Rarely — perhaps never. It is the old 
question of nature and art. The one is not a respecter 
of persons, the other is. Fact takes things as they come, 
fiction makes a mainstay of judicious selection. 

1. The Stream of Fiction 

naturally divides into the branches of realism, roman- 
ticism, and idealism; but it is both difficult and unde- 
sirable to dam up all the sociable little water-courses 
that insinuate their way across Mesopotamia and lightly 
mingle the divided waters. Romance gains when tinc- 
tured with realism, which in turn gives the color of verity 
to romanticism, while an entire absence o£ idealism 
would make both flat and tiresome. 

The short-story writer, like the novelist, may in the- 
ory adhere to any of these schools, for his temperament 
will naturally determine his preferences ; but in practice 
the utmost he may safely do is to give preeminence to 
his favorite form. He appeals to a ready-made audience 
that is naturally intolerant of fads and frills for mere 
theory's sake. 

It is quite apart from the purpose of this treatise to 
discuss the claims of the several schools; it will be 
enough to summarize each position briefly. 

(a) "Realism," 1 says Mr. Howells, " is nothing more 

1 For adequate studies of Realism see A Study of Prose Fic- 
tion, Bliss Perry, chap, ix; The Limits of Realism in Fiction, 
Edmund Gosse, in Questions at Issue; Criticism and Fiction, 
W. D. Howells ; Le Roman Experimental, Emile Zola. 


or less than the truthful treatment of material." 2 This 
statement is inadequate, but add Zola's utterances 3 and 
we get a clearer view of the realist's position. This he 
defines as " the negation of fancy " and as " the exclu- 
sion of the ideal." Realism " paints men as they are " 
and denies that the author should present his own point 
of view in a story, or even attempt to interpret the words 
and actions of his characters, who should be neither 
championed nor denounced by the author, but judged 
by the reader solely from what they think, do, say, and 
evidently are. " That fiction which lacks romantic at- 
mosphere," says Professor Perry, 4 is realistic. No ma- 
terial is too high, or low, or commonplace, or beautiful, 
or dirty, for the realist, so long as he makes a faithful 
transcript of contemporary life. 

(b) Romanticism 5 is as untrammeled as realism is cir- 
cumscribed. It builds castles in the air of what material 
it will, being well content with only a general seeming of 
reality. With one of its accepted apostles it says, " Fic- 
tion is not nature, it is not character, it is not imagined 
history; it is fallacy, poetic fallacy, pathetic fallacy, a lie 
if you like, a beautiful lie, a lie that is at once false and 
true — false to fact, true to faith." 6 

Thus, to gain verisimilitude, romance either lays a 

2 Criticism and Fiction, p. 73. 

3 In Le Roman Experimental. 

4 A Study of Prose Fiction, p. 229. 

5 See the chapter on The Romantic Novel, in The Evolution 
of the Novel, Francis Hovey Stoddard; The Domain of Ro- 
mance, Maurice Thompson, Forum, 8 : 328. 

6 The New Watchwords of Fiction, Hall Caine, Contempo- 
rary Review, April, 1890. 


foundation of truth and rears a true-appearing super- 
structure of more or less impossible fancies, or else lays 
down a fantastic substructure and (in the main) builds 
truthfully thereupon. This latter method is illustrated 
by Eugene Sue. In Poe's criticism of The Mysteries of 
Paris, he remarks that the incidents which follow upon 
the premises are perfectly credible, but the premises them- 
selves are laughably impossible. Yet this very device 
has made the success of many a wonder-story, for in its 
truthful progress the reader forgets the unlikely ground- 

Of romance, Evelyn May Albright says, 7 " But a com- 
moner interpretation of the term seems to include an ele- 
ment of remoteness of place or time ; or an element of the 
abnormal or unusual inexperience, of the frankly im- 
possible; or the element of the supernatural, including 
the weird or the uncanny, and the simple but intangible 
spiritual truths." 

The story that deals with spiritual truths might more 
properly be included under the next category. 

(c) Idealism. Idealistic fiction, 8 as its name implies, 
is born of an ideal, which it seeks to express. A charac- 
ter is conceived of as living and moving under certain 
conditions. Now what, in the circumstances, might, 
would, could, or should that character be and do and say ? 
The answer is governed not so much by a strictly im- 
partial (realistic) examination of living men and women, 

7 The Short-Story, p. 180. 

8 See The Influence of Idealism in Fiction, Ingrad Harting, 
Humanitarium, Vol. VI. 


as by the ideals held by the author. Idealism pictures life 
as the author thinks it should be in certain circumstances, 
and is in that respect didactic. 

(d) Composite Method. It must be emphasized that 
even in the novel — so much more leisurely and full 
than the short-story — we seldom find any one of these 
types purely exemplified ; and almost never in the short- 
story, which, in its best form, embodies something of all 
three elements. From realism it takes its faithful de- 
lineation of color and character, from romanticism it 
gains the fascinating touch of fantasy, from idealism it 
receives the instructive spiritual conception of how cer- 
tain imagined conditions would operate on a character, 
or how a character would mould his own final environ- 

An almost perfect realistic short-story is " Twenty-Six 
and One," one of Maxim Gorky's vagabond series. 9 A 
typical romantic story is Rudyard Kipling's " The Man 
Who Would Be King." A fine idealistic specimen is " A 
Christmas Carol," by Charles Dickens, for as the story 
goes on ideal conditions more and more prevail. 

So much for distinctions, for a thorough study of 
which references have already been given. It is time 
now to consider the practical handling of fact in fiction. 

2. The Use of Facts 

Every editor knows these sentences by heart : " This 
is a true story — it occurred exactly as I have written it, 

9 Translated in the volume of the same title (J. F. Taylor 
& Co., New York). 


the names only are changed ; " " I can vouch for the ab- 
solute exactness of the football incident, it happened to 
my brother ; " " The elopement scene is not at all over- 
drawn as I took careful notes at the time a neighbor's 
daughter ran away with the hired man." 

Thus ambitious realists think that the single quality of 
fidelity to fact must give any incident a passport to roam 
at will in the field of fiction. But, barring the extreme 
realists, authors and critics agree that while the letter 
(fact) killeth, the spirit (truth) maketh alive. Unless 
your mind's eye is telescopic as well as microscopic your 
vision will be distorted. The important thing in fiction 
is that your story should seem to be true. Of course, 
fiction of a gory, gushy, ghoulish sort which is as shock- 
ing as it intends to be, " succeeds " in proportion as it 
departs from truth, and glories in its degeneracy. But 
whether you will or not, your story is a teaching power. 
Your obligation to tell the essential truth — that is, to 
leave a final impression which is faithful to the realities 
of life — is immeasurably profound. If you trifle with 
it you ought to fail in fiction, and probably you will. 
Even farce must not mislead morally in its efforts to en- 
tertain. Let it be never so uproariously funny, still be- 
neath the solemn cassock, or the suit of heroic armor, it 
must slyly disclose its cap and bells, as if to say, " See, 
I am only fooling ! " " Mark Twain " is never so philo- 
sophical as when he is side-splitting. 

Speaking now of serious fiction : " When anybody's 
work lacks verisimilitude — when it impresses you as be- 
yond the bounds of life, of nature, cf possibility, or rea- 


sonable probability — it matters not what the author's 
talent, we have little use for it: imaginary persons must 
think and feel and talk and act as such persons would 
in real life." 10 When Shakespeare wrote the orations 
of Antony and Brutus he wrote history. Not that in any 
sense he copied the words of these orators ; he would not 
have so copied them had their words been extant; but 
in that with consummate understanding he wrote out 
the spirit of the orators. This it is to " found the story 
on fact," to " hold the mirror up to nature," to " speak 
truth as though it were fiction and fiction as though it 
were truth." 

Figment and fact, then, must become a composite — 
neither of them so prominent as to spoil the story. Only 
the characteristic, the delineative, the salient in situation, 
in emotion, in character, in conversation, in denouement, 
must be selected in the most highly selective of all arts — ■ 
the art of the short-story. 

Finally, the writer of the short-story, in combining 
fact with fiction to produce a convincing semblance of 
reality, must vitalize fact with emotion and with fantasy. 
In the words of Mr. Mabie : 

" He must invest his story with an atmosphere which 
shall enfold his reader and lay a spell on his senses as 
Poe has done in ' The Pit and the Pendulum/ or com- 
press the tragedy of a lifetime into a few pages, as De 
Maupassant does in ' The Necklace/ or secure all the 
force and swiftness of a tumultuous current of narrative, 

lb Fact in Fiction, Frederic M. Bird, Lip pine ott's, July, 1895. 


as Mr. Kipling has done in ' The Man Who Would Be 
King,' or stir the deepest emotions in a tale of love, as 
he has done in ' Without Benefit of Clergy,' which an 
American critic of high standing has declared to be the 
best short-story in English." 1X 

Fact in Fiction 

~... The Main Stream of Fiction 

(a) Realism 

(b) Romanticism 

(c) Idealism 

(d) Composite Method 

2. The Use of Facts in Fiction 


1. Discussion : Is the practice of realistic writing robbing 
the world of romance? 

2. Paper: Has realism added to the interest of fiction? 

3. Discussion: Is idealism a practical philosophy of life? 

4. Discussion, or paper : Ought a short-story writer take 
sides for or against his characters, or ought he remain neutral? 
(See Part II, chap, xi.) 

5. Describe, in fiction form, the street you live on, with real- 
istic attention to detail. 

6. Write an absolutely realistic short-story illustrating homely 

7. Rewrite 5 and 6 in a romantic spirit. 

8. Rewrite them in an idealistic spirit. 

9. Make a list of facts which might be used in fiction. 

10. Construct an incident from one of these and embellish it 
in romantic form. 

11 Introduction to Masterpieces of Fiction. 



My model is Euclid, whose justly celebrated book of short 
stories, entitled The Elements of Geometry, will live when most 
of us who are scribbling to-day are forgotten. Euclid lays 
down his plot, sets instantly to work at its development, letting 
no incident creep in that does not bear relation to the climax, 
using no unnecessary word, always keeping his one end in view, 
and the moment he reaches the culmination he stops. — Robert 
Barr, The Bookman, March, 1897. 

We need constant reminder that our theme admits of 
few positive rules and limitations, though the student of 
the short-story is able to recognize many clear general 
tendencies of the art. For this reason the analyses pre- 
sented in the several chapters are not to be regarded as 
dogmatic and final, but rather as attempts at plain and 
comprehensive exposition. Necessarily, in a subject 
whose parts are so intimately related as are those of the 
short-story, there will be considerable over-lapping of 
chapters. This is peculiarly true of the topic now to be 4 


In its simplest, broadest aspect, plot is the scheme, plan, 
argument or action of the story. But these are general 
terms and cover so many varieties of plot as to be more 


j2 PLOT 

brief than illuminating. Professor Bliss Perry says, 
rather vaguely, that plot is " that which happens to the 
characters." x Some one else has loosely called it " design 
applied to life." To hazard an exact definition : Plot in 
fiction is the climactic sequence of events in relation to the 
characters. More simply, it is the unfolding of the story 
— it is the very story itself, divested of all its description, 
characterization and conversation. Not that a bare plot 
could stand alone as a short-story, but that without plot 
there could be no short-story in the precise sense in which 
that term is used in this treatise, for the notion of plot 
is at the basis of the modern short-story, and, if we ex- 
cept plot in the drama, is itself a recent development. 2 

The plot in fiction differs from the ordinary drift of 
events in life in one important respect : the events which 
go to make up a fictional plot are artificially arranged so 
as to bring about a particular result. Thus stories of 
the purest realism do not have complicated plots, but the 
drift of events is made (artificially) to follow a simple 
course which seems real because it is natural. The arti- 
ficial touch may be no more violent than a mere hasten- 
ing of natural events, or a re-arrangement of their 
sequence, still the artificiality is there. 

In this treatise the word " plot " is regarded as having 
a narrower meaning than that of the word " theme," s 
which always stands for the subject-idea of the story, 
without any elaboration. It is out of the theme that the 

1 A Studv of Prose Fiction, p. 129. 

2 See p. 28. 

s See Part II, chap. i. 

plot 73 

plot must grow, so the theme is really the elemental, 
embryonic, or potential plot. 

How the plot differs in scope and detail from the mere 
stated theme I shall now illustrate. The theme of " The 
Reformation of Calliope," by " O. Henry," 4 may be 
stated as, How the " Terror " Calliope Catesby, came to 
serve as city marshal. This tells us little more than does 
the title. Indeed, at a pinch the title might serve as a 
compact statement of the theme. 

Compare this with the full statement of the plot — 
which, however, could be outlined in fewer words: 

" Calliope " Catesby is a Westerner — at best a nui- 
sance, at worst a " terror " — who habitually hangs out 
" danger-signals of approaching low spirits," and these 
the denizens of Quicksand are prompt to observe. " The 
different stages of his doldrums " reach their climax in 
drink, and in the peculiar yell that has given Calliope his 
nickname. After shooting up the town, he is attacked 
by the city marshal, Buck Patterson, and a posse. Cal- 
liope takes refuge in the railway station, whither Buck 
follows and is shot. Just now the westbound train 
comes in and a little old lady alights. She is Calliope's 
mother, unexpectedly come to visit him. In a flash the 
Terror removes Buck's glittering city marshal's badge 
and pins it on his own shirt. He then pretends to his 
mother that he is city marshal and has shot Buck in the 
performance of his duty. The mother bathes the pros- 
trate man's temple, which the shot has merely grazed. 

4 Heart of the West, Doubleday, Page & Co. 

74 plot 

As Buck revives, she pleads with him to give up his reck- 
less habits. With a glance of understanding at Calliope, 
Buck promises. The old lady then leaves the waiting- 
room to look after her trunk, and Buck, assured of the 
real Terror's willingness to reform, saves Calliope's repu- 
tation with his mother by allowing him to pose as city 
marshal during the week of her visit, and goes out to 
post the " boys " as to this novel state of affairs. 

But now we must look for one essential feature of a 
true plot — complication, by which I mean not complex- 
ity, but a happening, a crisis. Strictly, narratives with- 
out crises are without plots, and, as has been said, are 
tales rather than short-stories. In the former, events 
take a simple course ; whereas in the latter this course is 
interrupted by a complication. Something happens, and 
that happening starts, or sometimes actually constitutes, 
the plot. The rival interferes with the lover, or the " vil- 
lain " carries out his scheme, or an.accident happens, or a 
hidden condition is disclosed; whereupon things are tied 
up, and the reader remains more or less in suspense until 
the denouement — the untying, as the word really sig- 

Unless something happens, whether outwardly or in- 
wardly, we can have no plot, and no short-story. You 
might as well speak of the plot of a sermon, because it 
has a well-constructed plan, as to apply the term to the 
realistic tales and sketches which are mere photographic 
records of life without any complication and without the 
element of f .ntasy. Read the most subtle of Mr. Henry 

plot 75 

James's analyses, or the most adroit of Mr. Howells's 
sketches, and you may delight in them, but that delight 
is not likely to be due to the existence of a plot. It must 
be attributed, rather, to your satisfaction in recognizing, 
say, the characters the literator has so skilfully de- 
lineated, and in observing the movement of their lives 
in natural channels. In the typical story of plot your in- 
terest is of an entirely different sort. If it is not aroused 
by, it is at least greatly increased by, the complication in 
the plot, by the crisis in the affairs of the characters, and 
you eagerly wait for the unfolding. All the writer's 
skill in characterization, in description, in all the literary 
devices, is used largely if not solely to lead up effectively 
to this climax, and to handle the denouement with equal 

In his criticism, The American Drama, Poe has 
pointed out the necessity for compact unity in the true 
plot. He says: 

" A mere succession of incidents, even the most spir- 
ited, will no more constitute a plot than a multiplication 
of zeros, even the most infinite, will result in the produc- 
tion of a unit. This all will admit — but few trouble 
themselves to think further. The common notion seems 
to be in favor of mere complexity ; but a plot, properly 
understood, is perfect only inasmuch as we shall find 
ourselves unable to detach from it or disarrange any 
single incident involved, without destruction to tfie mass. 
This we say is the point of perfection — a point never 
yet attained, but not on that account unattainable. Prac- 

j6 PLOT 

tically, we may consider a plot as of high excellence when 
no one of its component parts shall be susceptible of re- 
moval without detriment to the whole." 


Various critics have said that all plots may be reduced 
to a few general classifications, ranging from four — 
those based upon Love, Identity, Hunger and Death 5 — 
to thirteen, which need not be named here. However 
this may be, it is certain that the kinds cross each other 
in unending combinations for which writers are duly 
grateful. Six kinds — doubtless an imperfect grouping 
— will now be briefly examined : Plots based upon Sur- 
prise; Problem; Mystery; Mood or Emotion or Senti- 
ment; Contrast; and Symbolism. Let it be remembered 
that these are only general groupings, and that a story 
is likely to exhibit more than one element as well as any 
one of a thousand minor variations. 6 The danger is that 
the beginner takes a convenient grouping of this sort as 
a hard and fast classification. Nothing could be more 
unwise and nothing more deadening to invention. 

5 Credited by Mr. Leslie Quirk, in The Editor, Mar., 1908, to 
Mr. Charles Leonard Moore, in The Dial. 

6 Many stories are thoroughbred mongrels, sired by the short- 
story writer and damned by the critic. But, like the common cur, 
they possess most lovable characteristics. A live mongrel is bet- 
ter than a dead prize-winner — but there is always the live prize- 
winner to serve as the standard for points ; and there are 
ribbons at the show for every breed, from Terrier to Great 

plot yy 

i. The Surprise Plot 

Here we have the simplest device of plot construction. 
The pride of the beginner is to produce the unexpected, 
frequently with a most unnatural result. That is the 
danger. It requires the exercise of sound sense to devise 
a genuine surprise for the reader and yet make the de- 
nouement perfectly natural, as in " Marjorie Daw," 7 for 
example. In the following simple surprise plot the old 
device of two men and a woman — the three-cornered plot 
*— is used : 8 

A young woman falls in love with a man, but, being 
worldly-minded, she refuses his addresses because of his 
poverty. She leaves the country and some years pass. 
One day, while on a visit to a friend in the new land, she 
is introduced to her old lover. Her heart goes out to 
him irresistibly. He has grown rich and thereafter they 
meet frequently. Tacitly neither refers to the painful 
subject of their old life. He proposes at length and she 
accepts him, when it transpires that her fiance is not her 
old lover at all, but his twin brother, of whose existence 
she did not know. 9 The injured brother appears on the 
scene, but she does not hold the love of either. 

7 Atlantic, 31 1407. 

f The chapter on Plot in Barrett's Short Story Writing con- 
tains some interesting examples of the prevalence of the three- 
cornered, or " three-leaved clover," plot. 

9 Mistaken identity is a very old device. 

78 PLOT 

2. The Problem Plot 

This is a self-explanatory term. The magazines are 
full of problem stories — some serious, some humorous. 
Though not as popular as surprise stories they offer a 
more attractive field for the skilful writer, particularly 
for the psychologist. 

Sometimes the writer leaves the reader wondering how 
the characters met the issue — a dangerous device. Not 
every one can carry off a situation as Stockton did with 
" The Lady or the Tiger." 10 For months after that 
ingenious hoax was perpetrated upon the public, smart 
writers bombarded weary editors with one imitation after 
another until newspaper notices began to appear, warn- 
ing young story-tellers that no such plots could be con- 

Now and then the author tackles a problem which is 
too big for him. Then in self-defense he kills off the 
characters — a poor way to beg the question. 11 

The three great dangers in choosing problem plots are : 
that the problem may not strike the reader as being vitally 
interesting; that the solution is likely to be apparent 
from the beginning; and that the author's solution may 
be unsatisfying. Let the tyro read Balzac's " La Grande 
Breteche " — here are both surprise and problem handled 
by the master. 

The problem plot often takes up a character and con- 

10 Century, 25 : 83. 

11 In Rupert of Hentsau any other ending than the death of 
Rudolf would have forced an unpleasant decision upon the 

plot 79 

centrates a white light upon some typical life-crisis, with 
a swift suggestion of the upward or the downward path 
leading away from the crossroads of decision. Some- 
times the problem is shown in the background, with the 
decision made long ago, or even just reached. Then the 
plot works out the after-effects — as in " The Delusion 
of Gideon Snell." 12 Most stories dealing with the accus- 
ing conscience, or with retributive justice, belong to this 

3. The Mystery Plot 

The detective story, the ghost story, and the plain 
mystery story, all deserve a fuller treatment than can 
here be given. 

Whether Poe modeled Monsieur Dupin's deductions 
upon the reasoning of Voltaire's clever Zadig is open 
to question, but it is certain that present-day writers 
acknowledge Poe as their preceptor in the realm of mys- 
tery. They all introduce the detective, amateur or pro- 
fessional, for the purpose of unraveling the mystery be- 
fore the reader's very eyes and yet concealing the key- 
thread until the last. Sometimes the web of entangle- 
ment is woven also in full sight — with the author's 
sleeves rolled up as a guarantee of good faith; and the 
closer you watch the less you see. 

As a character, the detective cannot be much more than 
a dummy. That is, his individuality cannot be brought 
out in a single short-story, except by a few bold strokes 
of delineation; but when he figures in a series of stories, 

12 James Raymond Perry, Lippincotfs, June, 1908. 



as does Sherlock Holmes, the reader at length comes to 
know him quite well. 

In the detective plot, the author seems to match his 
wits against the detective's, by striving to concoct a mys- 
tery which presents an apparently impossible situation. 
It adds to his problem that he must leave the real clue 
in full sight, yet so disguised that the reader cannot 
solve the mystery before some casual happening, or the 
ingenuity of the detective, shows it to the reader at the 
proper moment. Of course, the detective always plays 
the winning game against the author, and this pleases 
the reader. 

If a murder is to be committed, the victim must not 
be permitted to win the reader's sympathy too fully, else 
the story becomes revolting. Then, too, the clues gen- 
erally point to an innocent person, who is so interesting 
as to cause the reader to fear lest he or she should turn 
out to be the criminal. But you know the conventional 
•situations well enough; to invest the old problems with 
new forms is the province of invention. 

The ghost-story calls for a single comment, and that 
shall be in the words of Mr. Julian Hawthorne: 

"... a ghost story can be brought into our 
charmed and charming circle only if we have made up 
our minds to believe in the ghosts; otherwise their in- 
troduction would not be a square deal. It would not 
be fair, in other words, to propose a conundrum on a 
basis of ostensible materialism, and then, when no other 
key would fit, to palm off a disembodied spirit on us. 



Tell me beforehand that your scenario is to include both 
worlds, and I have no objection to make; I simply attune 
my mind to the more extensive scope. But I rebel at 
an unheralded ghostland, and declare that your tale is 
incredible." 13 

As for the plain mystery story, its name is its exposi- 
tion. It enjoys all the freedom possible to any short- 
story, its only requirements being those of ingenuity, in- 
terest, and denouement concealed until the close by 
hiding the real intrigue of the plot. 14 

4. The Plot of Mood, Emotion, or Sentiment 

Do not forget that plot may deal with the internal 
man as really as with the external. There is an action 
of the soul more vital and intense than visible action 
ever could be. When the inner finds expression in the 
outer, you have a powerful combination. Here is a fine 
field for delicate treatment. Hawthorne and Poe are the 
masters in America, as yet unapproached ; Maupassant 
has never been equalled among the French. In stories 
of this type the plot is constructed so as to show setting, 
characters, and incidents, all colored by a dominant mood 
— like the sense of inevitable downfall in Poe's " The 
Fall of the House of Usher ; " or an emotion — like fear, 
in " A Coward," 15 by Guy de Maupassant ; or a senti- 
ment — like the quest of success, in Hawthorne's " The 

13 " Riddle Stories," Introduction to Mystery and Detective 
Stories, Appendix A, 8. 

14 See p. 206. 

15 In The Odd Number, Harper. 

82 PLOT 

Great Carbuncle." All of these great stories, and most 
others by this trinity of fictionists 2 conform to Poe's re- 
quirement that the author should begin with a clear 
idea of the unified impression he desires to leave upon 
the reader, and then subordinate everything to this pur- 
pose. Naturally, plot and action will have a smaller 
place in the story of mood or sentiment than in the story 
of incident. 

5. The Plot of Contrast 

is a favorite with many able writers because it yields 
such excellent opportunities for character drawing. In 
Bret Harte's " The Outcasts of Poker Flat," two gam- 
blers and two dissolute women, having been driven out 
of Poker Flat, a western mining camp, fall in with an 
unsophisticated young man and the young girl whom 
he is about to marry. They are all snowed in by a ter- 
rible blizzard, and the story of how their privations re- 
veal their best and their worst qualities, even down to 
the last unavailing struggle with death, is a masterpiece 
of contrast, and one of the finest of American short- 

Contrast of characters may serve as foundation for 
contrasting environment and incident. The sharp dis- 
tinctions of extremes, as well as the more delicate con- 
trasts noticeable in closely related ideas and things, will 
be found full of suggestiveness to the writer whose eye 
is open to see them as they really are. 

PLOT 83 

6. The Plot of Symbolism 

The lofty ground taken by Hawthorne in his short- 
stories is nowhere more evident than in his symbolic 
fictions — in which he makes things, events, or char- 
acters stand for abstract truths. Yet this purpose in Haw- 
thorne " is saved from abstractness by being conveyed 
through appropriate physical images . . . [as] the 
bright butterfly in ' The Artist of the Beautiful/ and the 
little hand on the cheek of Aylmer's wife (' The Birth- 
mark '). Such an idea is jotted down in its most general 
form : — 

" ' To symbolize moral or spiritual disease by disease of 
the body; as thus — when a person committed any sin, 
it might appear in some form on the body — this to be 
brought out.' " 16 

The plot of symbolism always results in a didactic 
story — one which plainly seeks to teach a lesson. To 
be worth reading it must be very well done indeed. Few 
writers possess the skill, sincerity and power of Bunyan 
and Hawthorne. While the public is commonly supposed 
to be more ready to take its medicines when sugar- 
coated as fiction, still most symbolic short-stories are 
failures. Speaking generally, it is better to let the story 
teach its lesson by inference, unless the symbolism is 
very delicately suggested. Kipling's " They " may 
safely be taken as a model for the symbolic short-story. 

16 American Note Book, 2 : 59, quoted in The Short-Story, 
Albright, p. 43. See this author's suggestive chapters on "The 
Motive as the Source of Plot," and " Plot." 

84 PLOT 


By this I mean a plot that meets the demands of art, 
is adequate to the purpose of the author, and satisfac- 
torily impresses the reader. Judged by this standard 
good plots might seem to be few, but this is not the case. 
Without doubt most short-stories fail of acceptance be- 
cause of some defect other than that of an unsatisfactory 
plot. Usually, plot is better than workmanship. 

A good short-story plot must possess 

I. Simplicity 

Complexity serves well for the novel, but in the short- 
story it bulks too big for its vehicle. One hundred 
words are enough in which to compact a statement of 
the plot of almost any first-rate short-story. You cannot 
atone for the feebleness of situation by multiplying inci- 
dent. Avoid wheels within wheels (sub-plots, they are 
called), for they divert from the power of the main 
situation. But, it is objected, some of the greatest 
artists triumphantly use sub-plots, double-plots, and epi- 
sodes. Granted, but not because they know no better. 
Genius gloriously offends, making a virtue out of a weak- 
ness. Only swift runners take handicaps — and then 
sometimes lose. Be sure of your strength before you 
adopt a pet weakness. 

Remember that there is more than one meaning to the 
word " simple." In constructing your plot be certain 
to follow the right one. " The plot," says Dr. Bird, " may 

PLOT 85 

be so cleverly handled that we read with pleasure — and 
then at the end are disgusted with ourselves for being 
pleased, and enraged at the writer for deluding us; for 
we thought there would be something beneath his grace- 
ful manners and airy persiflage, and lo, there is not." ir 
A simple plot is not a silly plot, a " blind lane " that gives 
promise of leading to a fascinating climax but which 
only turns the reader back in his tracks, hoaxed, ashamed 
and irritated. 

Simplicity consorts with unity. They are boon com- 
panions. Let unity — unity of conception, unity of treat- 
ment, unity of effect — wholly possess your plot. 

2. Plausibility 

Arlo Bates has reminded us that a writer of fiction 
must be like the White Queen in Through a Looking 
Glass, who by practice was at length able to believe 
so many as six impossible things before breakfast. Some 
authors reserve this state of mind until after dinner, but 
it is a useful attainment for the romancer at all hours. 
Even if the author would not take oath that his tale is 
true, still to him as he tells it it must be true. If little 
fishes are made to talk, as Goldsmith remarked in com- 
menting on Dr. Johnson's literary methods, they should 
talk like little fishes, not like whales. 

Plausibility makes the skilful liar and the adept fic- 
tionist. Under the Merlin-touch of both all things are 
believable, and the most credulous are silenced, even if 

17 Magazine Fiction, Lippincott's, Nov., 1894. 

86 PLOT 

unconvinced. In ancient times tales dealt with the im- 
possible, 18 then they took up possibilities, next they es- 
sayed improbable situations, later they depicted the prob- 
able, and nowadays Messrs. Howells, James & Co. in- 
sist upon limiting our themes to the inevitable. Whether 
this change from romance to realism is or is not progress 
is beside the question. It is a tendency to be reckoned 
with in story-telling. You must fabricate with due re- 
gard for what seems probable. No matter how impos- 
sible your romance, cock one eye toward plausibility of 
plot. In proportion as your theme leaves romance and 
walks toward realism your plot must clasp hands with 
truth and truth-seeming. 

But have a care at this point. The primary necessity 
for plausibility does not lie in the promises of a wonder- 
story, but rather in what follows. When the author 
asserts that Mars is peopled with such beings as H. G. 
Wells has invented, the reader good-naturedly accepts 
the premise. So far, all is easy. But now these Mar- 
tians must behave in such a manner as to justify them- 
selves and become realities. There is no objection to 
creating a wonder-island, or a human being who can fly, 
or an invisible hero, but there is objection to constructing 
a plot which involves such things without causing events 
to follow plausibly. The four-armed giant must perform 
deeds suited to his prowess. 

Upon the other hand, it will not do to introduce a 

18 A modification of Professor Brander Matthews' statement, 
that, " Fiction dealt first with the Impossible, then with the Im- 
probable, next with the Probable, and now at last with the 

PLOT 87 

wonder-plot into an atmosphere which is not suited 
thereto. Once establish any " impossible " condition, 
and you are free to carry out your plot to its logical con- 

Re-read Julian Hawthorne's words on page 80. 

The idea of plot is inherent in the human mind. Fic- 
tion found its germs in nature. In nature, cause points to 
effect, character results in conduct, conduct leads to des- 
tiny — these are cherished beliefs among civilized peo- 
ples. Mere chance can no more rule in the serious story 
than it can ultimately in life. Now and then accident, 
or what seems such to be, crops up, but the general 
reader does not want to feel that chance is making pup- 
pets of the characters in the story. In extravaganza he 
forgives incongruity, but otherwise he demands a plausi- 
ble progress of incidents. You may be clever at car- 
pentering a plot, but the convincing plot is a growth. 
Get hold of this truth with both hands. 

The great literators recognized this necessity for con- 
sistent truth-seeming when they let fall significant words 
in their story-telling which, read in the light of the final 
issue, were really well-concealed forecasts — or, at least, 
portents. Such, in real life, were the words of Jesus 
which his followers afterwards knew to have had refer- 
ence to coming events. 

3. Originality 19 

" It is not sight the story-teller needs, but second 
sight " 20 Give us something new, is the ever-increasing 

19 See chapter on Originality, Part III, chap. i. 

20 After-thoughts of a Story-Teller, George W. Cable, North 
American Review, Jan., 1894. 

88 PLOT 

cry. Nor is this impossible, even with the field so well- 
tilled as it truly is. In his essay, The American Drama, 
Poe says: 

" Originality, properly considered, is threefold. There 
is, first, the originality of the general thesis; secondly, 
that of the several incidents or thoughts by which the 
thesis is developed; and, thirdly, that of the manner or 
tone, by which means alone an old subject, even when 
developed through hackneyed incidents or thoughts, may 
be made to produce a fully original effect — which, after 
all, is the end truly in view. 

" But originality, as it is one of the highest, is also 
one of the rarest of merits. . . . We are content 
perforce, therefore, as a general thing, with either of the 
lower branches of originality mentioned above." 

Professor Saintsbury has called our attention to the 
remarkable basic similarity among Hall Caine's plots for 
novels. 21 Yet that entertaining romancer writes for a 
steadily increasing army of readers. He follows the 
spirit of Poe's dictum just quoted. 

21 Fortnightly Review, LVII N. S., p. 187. Also compare the 
plots of these three short-stories: (a) "The Cask of Amontil- 
lado," by Poe, in which a revengeful man lures his enemy to 
some ancient wine vaults and walls him up in a niche alive, (b) 
" La Grande Breteche," by Balzac, in which a husband learns 
that an intruder is hiding in a closet and has him walled up alive 
before his wife's eyes, (c) "The Duchess at Prayer," by Edith 
Wharton, in which a cruel and neglectful husband learns that his 
wife has been intriguing with a cousin in a crypt of the famih 
chapel, and entombs the cousin alive by placing a heavy marble 
statue of his wife over the only entrance to the crypt. 

PLOT 89 

Mr. Leslie W. Quirk cites in The Editor some inter- 
esting cases of alleged plagiarism arising from several 
authors' using the same newspaper account as material 
for stories. 22 

4. Climax 

There is a great divide in every perfect plot. Toward 
its summit the story must steadily progress, directly and 
without episode or digression. On that summit the 
reader lingers in suspense for a longer or shorter mo- 
ment. From thence the plot swiftly falls away to its 
full close. This great divide we call the climax. 23 

5. Interest 

The good plot must be interesting, it must touch the 
reader in a vital spot. The remote, out-of-date, feeble, 
tempest-in-a-teapot theme begets a story of like sort. 
Remember that when an editor takes up your manuscript 
or a reader your printed story, the chances are generally 
against you — you must win interest, it is not waiting 
for you ready-made. Your story is in competition with 
others. Your judge knows a good story when he meets 
it and is looking for good points in yours — with an 
eye open for defects as well. But be sure of this : what 
virtues soever your story may possess, it fails if it does 
not grip and hold the reader's interest, and the big in- 
terest in fiction is human interest. Even when animals 
play parts in the fictive drama they make up in partial 

22 March, 1908, p. 117. 

23 For a fuller treatment of Climax, see Part II, chap. x. 

90 PLOT 

human guise — like " Br'er Rabbit " and " Br'er Fox." 
Make up your mind that human interest cannot be 
" faked." Don't try to write about that which does not 
lay hold of your own soul mightily. Get close to the 
pulsating life about you, know it, feel it, believe in it, 
sympathize with it, do something for it, live it, and as 
it pours through the channels of your own being it will 
qualify you to picture that life for others interestedly 
and interestingly. Take Wilkie Collins's prescription for 
fiction-writing, " Make 'em laugh ; make 'em cry ; make 
'em wait." At the same time, " mix your paint with 
brains." The great life-forces which compel men's in- 
terest in real life — sacrifice, courage, genuineness, devo- 
tion, love, and all the rest — will grip your readers with 
convincing power. First transmute life into fiction, then 
fiction will awake to life. 



1. Surprise Plot 

2. Problem Plot 

3. Mystery Plot 

4. Plot of Mood, Emotion, or Sentiment 

5. Plot of Contrast 

6. Plot of Symbolism 


1. Simplicity . 

2. Plausibility 

3. Originality 

4. Climax 

5. Interest 

PLOT 91 


1. What differences and similarities do you see between a 
plot which is a design against a person, and a fiction-plot? 

2. Do you see any peculiar fitness in Robert Barr's com- 
parison of a plot with a theorem, on page 71. 

3. Construct a simple plot from one of these themes: (a) 
The long self-reproach of a man who thinks he has committed a 
crime but at length discovers that appearances deceived him. 
(b) How the double meaning of a remark caused a humorous 
complication in the affairs of a conceited man. (c) How her 
projected injury to a neighbor caused such a change in the 
thought and bearing of a woman that she finally believed she 
had actually committed the injury. The consequences. 

4. Select from the current magazines at least four stories 
illustrating the different kinds of plot named on page 90. 
Briefly summarize the plots, in the manner shown in Ap- 
pendix C. 

5. Which of the six kinds of plot do you find the most 
common? How many stories, and what magazines, did you 
examine in coming to a conclusion? 

6. Do certain magazines seem to prefer certain kinds of 
plot? If so, specify; and assign reasons. 

7. Name as many minor kinds of plot as you can which 
might be included under the six general kinds. 

8. Point out the main complication (crisis) in each of the 
first four plots in Appendix C. Try to substitute a different 
complication in each plot. 

9. Do you see any weak points in any of these four plots? 

10. Try to find a story that has no complication in the course 
of its events, briefly outlining its plan. Is it a tale, a sketch, 
or a short-story? 

11. Would a complication mar or improve the interest of the 
story for you? 

12. Suggest a possible complication and say how it would 
act on the interest of the plot — if you think there is a real 

13. Criticise the plot of a story selected from a current 

92 PLOT 

magazine, with regard to simplicity, plausibility, originality, 
climax, and interest. 

14. Is the plot of "An Error of Judgment," p. 214, perfectly 

15. Construct a simple plot for a short-story of incident. 

16. Can you name (a) a recent long story (generally called 
a novel) whose plot is really an overgrown short-story plot? 
(b) A short-story whose plot is too big for the short-story 

17. Write out the plot of " The Necklace," Part III, chap. iv. 

Note: Most of the written work on Plot should be reserved 
for the assignments connected with the next chapter. 



Let him [the fiction writer] choose a motive, whether of 
character or of passion ; carefully construct his plot so that every 
incident is an illustration of the motive, and every property em- 
ployed shall bear to it a near relation of congruity or contrast; — 
and allow neither himself in the narrative nor any character in 
the course of the dialogue, to utter one sentence that is not 
part and parcel of the business of the story. . . . And as 
the root of the whole matter, let him bear in mind that his 
novel is not a transcript of life, to be judged by its exactitude; 
but a simplification of some side or point of life, to stand or 
fall by its significant simplicity. — Robert Louis Stevenson, A 
Humble Remonstrance. 

The foregoing quotation from the great Scottish mas- 
ter may serve to link the preceding chapter on " Plot " 
with the present one on " Plot Development." 


The chapters on " Choosing a Theme," " Gathering 
the Materials," and " Fact in Fiction " have pointed out 
the general sources of literary material, still it seems 
worth while to look somewhat closely at three special 
plot-sources, as being fundamental to plot construction. 



I. The Characters 1 

Here arises the old question as to whether circum- 
stances govern men or men control circumstances. As 
to fiction, Mr. Howells holds to the latter view. " The 
true plot," he says, " comes out of the character ; that 
is, the man does not result from the things he does, but 
the things he does result from the man, and so plot 
comes out of character ; plot aforethought does not char- 
acterize." A more moderate view, it seems to me, is that 
events ordinarily modify characterSj and that in certain 
instances men actually make events. When circum- 
stances are too much for the struggling will, and events 
pile up, irresistibly driving man on to his destiny, we 
have tragedy. 2 But not all life is tragic. Now and 
again the hero's hand disposes of affairs and he arises 

" To many men, doubtless, there is far more fascina- 
tion in conceiving a group of characters — and then set- 
ting to work to discover a narrative which will give them 
the freest action — than in toiling over the bare idea, 
and the subsequent plot, followed by a series of actors 
and actresses who work out the denouement." 3 

When Thackeray planned Vanity Fair the characters 
gave form to the plot. In writing to his mother he says : 
" What I want is to make a set of people living without 
God in the world (only that is a cant phrase), greedy, 

1 See chap, xi, Characters and Characterization. 

2 A study of Professor Moulton's Shakespeare as a Dramatic 
Artist will abundantly repay the student. 

z How to Write Fiction, anon., p. 46. 


pompous men, perfectly self-satisfied for the most part, 
and at ease about their superior virtue." 4 

To conceive of a character as subject to the limitations 
of heredity, or of environment, at once opens up the book 
of life, whose lightest word is weighty with meaning. 
What a field is here disclosed, replete with the most ab- 
sorbing problem plots ! 5 A dissolute but good-natured 
man comes into a fortune, but it is to be his contingent 
upon his entire reformation: how does he act? A man 
born without timidity, at middle age suddenly finds fear 
obsessing his every thought: how would he attempt to 
maintain his place among his associates ? A light woman 
suddenly awakens to the fact that she has forfeited the 
respect of her grown daughter : what means will she 
take to regain it? 

The combinations are endless. 

In the great majority of instances the characters in the 
short-story will disclose themselves by means of 

2. Dramatic Incidents 

Marion Crawford has called the novel a pocket stage. 6 
The same may be said even more truly of the short-story. 
It is patent to the observer that these two are now in- 
fluencing each other profoundly. The dramatist and the 
short-story writer labor with the same materials, under 
nearly like conditions, and often seek similar effects. 

4 Introduction to Vanity Fair, Biographical Edition. 

5 See Hawthorne's American Note Books for many germ-plots 
based upon conceptions of character. 

« The Novel: What It Is. 


The drama exhibits w characters in action " 7 — so does 
the short-story; the drama is plotted with a view to the 
same requirements as govern the short-story — brief and 
comprehensive introduction of characters and setting, 
rapid rise of the complicating incident to the climax, 
period of suspense, denouement, and swift close ; both are 
contrived to produce a preconceived and unified effect; 
both are compressed, scenic, and usually contain a touch 
of fantasy. Thus the points of likeness might be multi- 
plied and expanded. 

One word, however, may be offered about the bearing 
of the old dramatic unities — action, time and place. 8 
The unity of the short-story upon which Poe insists is 
none of these; it is, as has already appeared, a unity of 
effect, or impression. At the same time it is well to re- 
member that unity of action, which Corneille called the 
unity of intrigue, is essential to good plot. It is also 
usually desirable to limit the time to a short period, 
and the place to one general locality — of which more 

From the foregoing it will be plain that the charac- 
ters and dramatic incidents, as well as the general sources 
noted in previous chapters, must generally be used con- 
jointly. This idea is amplified in the following: 

" In his recently written preface to the revised Por- 
trait of a Lady, Mr. Henry James quotes a remark of 

7 1 am much indebted to Professor Bliss Perry's chapter on 
" Fiction and the Drama," in A Study of Prose Fiction. 

8 For a thorough discussion of the dramatic unities see Dra- 
matic Art and Literature, A. W. von Schlegel, p. 232 


Ivan Turgenev ' in regard to his own experience of the 
usual origin of the fictive picture/ It began for him, 
Mr. James reports, ' almost always with the vision of 
some person or persons, who hovered before him. 
, . . He saw them subject to the chances, the com- 
plications of existence, and saw them vividly, but then 
had to find for them the right relations, those that 
would most bring them out; to imagine, to invent and 
select and piece together the situations most useful and 
favorable to the sense of the creatures themselves, the 
complications they would be most likely to produce and 
to feel/ " 9 

3. Impressionism 

One never tires of quoting Stevenson. The following 
words from Graham Balfour's Life and Letters of the 
great romancer admirably point out the three special 
sources of fictional plots — characters, dramatic incidents, 
and impressionism. Balfour is speaking : 

" I remember very distinctly his saying to me : ' There 
are, so far as I know, three ways, and three ways 
only, of writing a story. You may take a plot and fit 
characters to it, or you may take a character and choose 
incidents and situations to develop it, or lastly — you 
must bear with me while I try to make this clear ' — 
(here he made a gesture with his hand as if he were 
trying to shape something and give it outline and form) 
— ' you may take a certain atmosphere 10 and get action 

9 The Forum, April-June, 1908. Compare p. 94. 
10 A brief discussion of "atmosphere" is given in chap. viii. 


and persons to express and realize it. I'll give you an 
example — The Merry Men. There I began with the 
feeling of one of those islands on the west coast of Scot- 
land, and I gradually developed the story to express 
the sentiment with which the coast affected me.' " 

Stevenson's experience is what Mr. H. S. Canby " 
calls (as he himself laments, for want* of a better term) 
" impressionism," but in Stevenson's case the impression 
gained totality only when the story grew out of his some- 
what vague " feeling " of atmosphere. He first received 
an impression, and then sought to convey that impression 
by means of the story — .and he did. 12 

Of course the general impression of atmosphere is 
not the only one the author may wish to convey through 
the medium of the short-story. The more specific feeling 
aroused by a picture, an incident, a situation, a problem, 
a character — what not — may be just as effectively 
conveyed to the reader. Mr. Canby thus dwells upon 
this theme in his brochure, The Short Story: 

" So the nucleus of * The Luck of Roaring Camp ' may 
have been the glimpse of a lank, rough figure, with a 
tiny baby in its arms, and, in spite of the excellent plot, 
a feeling akin to the pleasurable emotion which would 
follow upon such a scene in real life remains longest 

11 The Short Story, Yale Studies^ in English, p. 15. 

12 The same results may be attained in the sketch, as witness 
Kipling/s Indian sketches — half pictures, half anecdotes, alto- 
gether atmospheric. The Smith Administration papers are ex- 
amples in point. 


with the reader. According to this theory [impression- 
ism] the process, if one should attempt to write a Short 
Story, might be something like this: I leave my room 
and meet a drunken beggar reeling from the gutter. As 
I turn to avoid him, he pulls himself together and quotes 
huskily a dozen lines of Virgil with a bow and a flourish, 
and stumbles off into the darkness. I make him into a 
story, and, be the plot w r hat it may, the effect upon the 
reader that I shall strive for will be a vivid impression 
of incongruity, not far different from that which I felt 
when the drunkard turned scholar and relapsed. Not all 
short stories can be analyzed back to their basic ele- 
ment as easily as this one may be built up, but with 
many the process is easy and obvious.' Nearly every 
conte of Maupassant is a perfect example; his titles 
' Fear/ ' Happiness,' ' The Coward,' would lead you to 
suspect as much. In the motifs and suggestions for 
stories, some utilized later, some not, which may be found 
in quantity scattered through Hawthorne's American 
Note-Books, there is often enough such an impression 
noted at the moment of its inception. Here in the 
American Note-Books, II. 176, is ' The print in blood 
of a naked foot to be traced through the streets of a 
town/ which seems to inspire ' Dr. Grimshaw's Secret/ 
and again, N.B. I. 13, ' In an old house a mysterious 
knocking might be heard on the wall, where had formerly 
been a doorway now bricked up/ which is applied in 
1 Peter Goldthwaite's Treasure ; ' also, * A stranger, dy- 
ing, is buried ; and after many years two strangers come 
in search of his grave and open it/ . ^ . In Henry 


James's story, ' Flickerbridge,' which appeared in Scrib- 
tier's for February, 1902, the action of the story can only 
be explained by the deep impression which the quaint, 
delightful lady of Flickerbridge makes upon the hero, 
which impression it is the intent of the author to convey 
to the reader; and so with many another." 


Sir Walter Scott once said that in working out a plot he 
" took the easiest path across country." Doubtless this 
will account for the winding way by which the Wizard 
sometimes leads us. But not all masters of fiction found 
plot development so simple a process as a journey afield. 
To some it has always been the most arduous task of all 
the labor of fiction building. 

Here is a concrete instance of how easily conversation 
may bring out a plot-germ : Several friends were seated 
on my piazza lately while the talk drifted. 

" There is a professor of Psychology at col- 
lege," said one, " who has sold his head to a learned 
society for $15,000. His head is of unique form and," 
he chuckled, " the society thinks it may be even more 
valuable after his death than it is now." 

" When is the money to be paid ? " queried another of 
the group. 

" The professor is already actually living on the $15,- 
000, and — " 

" But," interposed a third, " what would happen if he 
should be lost at sea ? " 


" I wonder if the society has insured his life in their 
favor ? " pondered the first gentleman. 

And so the conversation went on. No one of the 
group has yet made a short-story out of the germ, but 
the query " what would happen ? " holds several in- 
genious answers awaiting development. 

At just such a stage as this, plot development must 
be taken up in earnest. Then, with Poe, whose words 
follow, we long for some practical demonstration of 
how the master workman sets about his task. 

" I have often thought how interesting a magazine 
paper might be written by an author who would — that 
is to say, who could — detail, step by step, the processes 
by which any one of his compositions attained its ulti- 
mate point of completion. Why such a paper has never 
been given to the world, I am much at a loss to say — 
but perhaps the authorial vanity has had more to do with 
the omission than any one other cause. Most writers — 
poets in especial — prefer having it understood that they 
compose by a species of fine frenzy — an ecstatic intui- 
tion — and would positively shudder at letting the pub- 
lic take a peep behind the scenes, at the elaborate and) 
vacillating crudities of thought — at the true purposes' 
seized only at the last moment — at the innumerable 
glimpses of idea that arrived not at the maturity of full 
view — at the fully-matured fancies discarded in despair 
as unmanageable — at the cautious selections and re- 
jections — at the painful erasures and interpolations — 
in a word, at the wheels and pinions, the tackle for 


scene-shifting, the step-ladders and demon-traps, the 
cock's feathers, the red paint and the black patches, 
which in ninety-nine cases out of the hundred constitute 
the properties of the literary histrio." 13 

Several well-known authors have since done precisely 
what Poe here suggests, and I can do no better than de- 
vote the rest of this chapter to two personally conducted 
tours in which successful writers take us into their 
work-shops. 14 They are both novelists, it is true, but 
their words are full of meat for the short-story writer. 

The first conductor is the fecund Wilkie Collins. 15 
He is showing us how he wrote The Woman in White. 

" My first proceeding is to get my central idea — the 
pivot on which the story turns. The central idea in 
' The Woman in White ' is the idea of a conspiracy in 
private life, in which circumstances are so handled as to 
rob a woman of her identity, by confounding her with 
another woman sufficiently like her in personal appear- 
ance to answer the wicked purpose. The destruction 
of her identity represents a first division of her story; 
the recovery of her identity marks a second division. 
My central idea next suggests some of my chief charac- 

" A clever devil must conduct the conspiracy. Male 
devil or female devil? The sort of wickedness wanted 
seems to be a man's wickedness. Perhaps a foreign man. 

ls The Philosophy of Composition. 
> 14 In his Philosophy of Composition Poe himself circumstan- 
tially tells how he wrote The Raven. 
15 See his Autobiography. 


Count Fosco faintly shows himself to me before I know 
his name. I let him wait, and begin to think about the 
two women. They must be both innocent and both inter- 
esting. Lady Glyde dawns on me as one of the innocent 
victims. I try to discover the other — and fail. I try 
what a walk will do for me — and fail. I devote the 
evening to a new effort — and fail. Experience tells 
me to take no more trouble about it, and leave that 
other woman to come of her own accord. The next 
morning before I have been awake in my bed for more 
than ten minutes,. my perverse brains set to work without 
consulting me. Poor Anne Catherick comes into the 
room, and says, ' Try me.' 

"I have now got an idea, and three of my charac- 
ters. What is there to do now? My next proceeding 
is to begin building up the story. Here my favorite 
three efforts must be encountered. First effort: To 
begin at the beginning. Second effort: To keep the 
story always advancing, without paying the smallest at- 
tention to the serial division in parts, or to the book 
publication in volumes. Third effort: To decide on 
the end. All this is done as my father used to paint his 
skies in his famous sea-pictures — at one heat. As yet 
I do not enter into details; I merely set up my land- 
marks. In doing this, the main situations of the story 
present themselves in all sorts of new aspects. These 
discoveries lead me nearer and nearer to finding the 
right end. The end being decided on, I go back again 
to the beginning, and look at it with a new eye, and fail 
to be satisfied with it. 


" I have yielded to the worst temptation that besets a 
novelist — the temptation to begin with a striking inci- 
dent without counting the cost in the shape of explana- 
tions that must and will follow. These pests of fiction, to 
reader and writer alike, can only be eradicated in one 
way. I have already mentioned the way — to begin at 
the beginning. In the case of ' The Woman in White/ 
I get back, as I vainly believe, to the true starting point 
of the story. I am now at liberty to set the new novel 
going, having, let me repeat, no more than an outline of 
story and characters before me 5 and leaving the details 
in each case to the spur of the moment. For a week, as 
well as I can remember, I work for the best part of 
every day, but not as happily as usual. An unpleasant 
sense of something wrong worries me. At the begin- 
ning of the second week a disheartening discovery re- 
veals itself. I have not found the right beginning of 
' The Woman in White ' yet. The scene of my opening 
chapters is in Cumberland. Miss Fairlie (afterwards 
Lady Glyde) ; Mr. Fairlie, with his irritable nerves and 
his art treasures; Miss Halcombe (discovered suddenly, 
like Anne Catherick), are all awaiting the arrival of the 
young drawing master, Walter Hartwright. No; this 
won't do. The person to be first introduced is Anne 
Catherick. She must already be a familiar figure to the 
reader when the reader accompanies me to Cumberland. 
This is what must be donei but I don't see how to do it ; 
no new idea comes to me; I and my MS. have quar- 
reled, and don't speak to each other. One evening I 
happen to read of a lunatic who has escaped from an 


asylum — a paragraph of a few lines only in a news- 
paper. Instantly the idea comes to me of Walter Hart- 
wright's midnight meeting with Anne Catherick escaped 
from the asylum. i The Woman in White ' begins again, 
and nobody will ever be half as much interested in it 
now as I am. From that moment I have done with my 
miseries. For the next six months the pen goes on. 
It is work, hard work ; but the harder the better, for this 
excellent reason: the work is its own exceeding great 
reward. As an example of the gradual manner in which 
I reached the development of character, I may return 
for a moment to Fosco. The making of him was an 
afterthought ; his canaries and his white mice were found 
next; and, in the most valuable discovery of all, his ad- 
miration of Miss Halcombe, took its rise in a conviction 
that he would not be true to nature unless there was 
some weak point somewhere in his character.'' 

The second conductor shall be Sir Walter Besant. 16 

" Consider — say, a diamond robbery. Very well ; 
then, first of all, it must be a robbery committed under 
exceptional and mysterious conditions, otherwise there 
will be no interest in it. Also, you will perceive that 
the robbery must be a big and important thing — no 
little shop-lifting business. Next, the person robbed 
must not be a mere diamond merchant, but a person 
whose loss will interest the reader, say, one to whom 
the robbery is all-important. She will be, say, a vulgar 

16 On the Writing of Novels, Atlanta, Vol. I, p. 372. 


woman with an overweening pride in her jewels, and of 
course, without the money to replace them if they are 
lost. They must be so valuable as to be worn only on 
extraordinary occasions, and too valuable to be kept at 
home. They must be consigned to the care of a jeweler 
who has strong-rooms. You observe that the story is 
now. growing. You have got the preliminary germ. 
How can the strong-room be entered and robbed ? Well, 
it cannot. That expedient will not do. Can the dia- 
monds be taken from the lady while she is wearing them ? 
That would have done in the days of the gallant Claude 
Duval, but it will not do now. Might the house be 
broken into by a burglar on a night when a lady had 
worn them and returned? But she would not rest with 
such a great property in the house unprotected. They 
must be taken back to their guardian the same night. 
Thus the only vulnerable point in the care of the dia- 
monds seems their carriage to and from their guardian. 
They must be stolen between the jeweler's and the own- 
er's house. Then by whom? The robbery must some- 
how be connected with the hero of the love story — 
that is indispensable; he must be innocent of all com- 
plicity in it — that is equally indispensable; he must 
preserve our respect ; he will have to be somehow a vic- 
tim : how is that to be managed ? 

" The story is getting on in earnest. . . . The only 
way — or the best way — seems, on consideration, to 
make the lover be the person who is entrusted with the 
carriage of this precious package of jewels to and from 
the owner's house. This, however, is not a very dis- 


tinguished role to play; it wants a very skilled hand to 
interest us in a jeweler's assistant — We must therefore 
give this young man an exceptional position. Force of 
circumstances, perhaps, has compelled him to accept the 
situation which he holds. He need not again be a shop 
man; he may be a confidential employe, holding a posi- 
tion of great trust; and he may be a young man with 
ambitions outside the narrow circle of his work. 

" The girl to whom he is engaged must be lovable 
to begin with; she must be of the same station in life 
as her lover — that is to say, of the middle class, and 
preferably of the professional class. As to her home 
circle, that must be distinctive and interesting." 

And so on to the end. This is enough, however, to 
turn the author's reasoning processes inside out for our 

Plot Development 

i. the sources of plot 

1. The Characters 

2. Dramatic Incidents 

3. Impressionism 


Methods of Wilkie Collins and Sir Walter Besant. 


I. (a) Briefly describe at least three characters known to 
you, whose individualities suggest short-story plot possibilities, 
(b) Do the same from any one of Dickens' novels. 


2. Construct a plot based upon one of the three, in cases 
a and b (above). 

3. Paper: Compare and contrast the dramatic form with 
the short-story form. 

4. Can you discover any flaws in Sir Walter Besant's reason- 
ing, or method, on p. 106. 

5. Look over the outlines of chapters shown in the Table 
of Contents, and make a list of the sources of plot-material. 

6. Which of these seem to you to be the most fertile? Why? 

7. Build a simple plot from one such source. 

8. Does environment limit plot? Give reasons. 

9. Outline a plot, original or borrowed, whose incidents 
could not have happened in any given locality you choose to 

10. Outline one that could be set anywhere. 

11. Rewrite "The Necklace," p. 326, setting the incidents in 
New York, or some other American city. 

12. Construct a short-story plot from a newspaper account, 
adhering closely to facts. 

13. Construct a plot from the same item, giving free play to 
the imagination. 

14. Select any plot from Appendix C, and (a) entirely change 
the first half; (b) the last half. 

15. Construct a plot from a situation presented in a painting, 
or engraving. 

Note: Other exercises in plot-development may be devised 
by building plots of any or all the kinds grouped in the chapter 
on " Kinds of Short- Story," 



The great adversary of Invention is Imitation. — Poe, The 
American Drama. 

How shall I tell my story? In any one of a dozen 
ways — if you can. The " if " is expressive of two con- 
ditions: your art and your view-point. 

Any way is good if it is artistic; but some ways are 
harder than others. That, however, is no argument 
against trying them, provided you fully realize how 
you hamper yourself by their adoption, not only as to 
difficulty but as to popular approval as well. Art can 
take a time-worn and prosaic method and breathe into 
it the breath of life. But are you an artist ? In making 
your decision you must be frank with yourself : Are you 
a past-master of form? If not, is it safe to attempt the 
most difficult of all tasks — to handle an old method with 
such skill as to make it virtually new ; to work over your 
story until you have invested its old style of narration with 
the charm of freshness ? Are you ready to study the work 
of others — not in order to imitate, but to form your 
own judgments as to effects? If so, go ahead. Be 
individual. Employ any method that you can use with 
skill, but make certain of your skill before you handicap 
yourself by clinging to time-worn devices. 



The second condition to govern your choice of how 
to tell your story is your own view-point as the story- 
teller. It is your story, and ten chances to one it pos- 
sesses you, for the time being. If it doesn't, pigeonhole 
it until it does. But I assume now that you are full 
of your story. Look within yourself and see if there is 
not some form of narration that is within your range 
and peculiarly suited to the story itself. Give the same 
story to another writer and he would tell it differently, 
but as you visualize the pictures of your fiction, ask 
yourself how may you best present these pictures to 
the prospective reader. Do you naturally think of your- 
self as an actor in the scenes to be portrayed? Are you 
one of your characters, or merely an interested but im- 
personal on-looker? Are you the intimate friend of the 
actors in your little drama, or are you careless of what 
happens to them ? 1 

Press home questions like these until you are aware of 
your precise relation to your story, its setting, its char- 
acters, its denouement. This once determined, try to 
maintain the same attitude throughout the story. Don't 
quarrel with your hero or fall in love with the villain 
unless you are willing to begin all over again and assume 
a fresh view-point. Don't indulge your sneaking prefer- 
ence for a minor character at the expense of the heroine, 
unless you give them both new places in the plot. You 
tacitly ask your readers to assume your chair as they 
read, and look at your creations through your spectacles. 
If you are a realist, you may deny this, but your very 

1 Compare p. 229. 


methods of selection show that you wish the reader to 
see your characters as you yourself do. 

And the reader likes to adopt the author's view-point ; 
in fact he resents it when he is denied that privilege 
because of the unfair, unnatural, morbid, silly, brutal, 
or outlandish attitude taken by the author toward his 
creations. A short-story is never more enjoyed than 
when the author has quite captured the reader and their 
sympathies harmonize. 

So, having attained some skill in the art of narra- 
tion in one style or more, your own attitude toward your 
story will determine your manner of telling it — though 
perhaps not on the instant; your decision may be the 
result of experiment, with one method after another 
tested until you have found the one best suited to your 
story and to your abilities. 

I. Story-telling in the Third Person 

This is the commonest, probably the easiest, and surely 
the safest form of narration. The author keeps entirely 
in the background, unless, like Thackeray, he comes for- 
ward with his own platter to offer a moral morsel to the 
reader. But in the short-story such homilies and per- 
sonal expressions are looked upon askance. The begin- 
ner had better avoid them. To be sure, an author of 
strong personality cannot help impressing his point of 
view, but he does it for the most part unconsciously, and 
by the same token the reader discerns it, feels it, more 
surely than if it were written out declaratively. It needs 


no expositor to point out the gentle spirit of sympathy 
and humor that pervaded the author of " The Joy of 
Youth" when she wrote her story. It stands out in the 
first paragraph and the reader willingly adopts the same 

Emmeline Ames, going down the village street that winter 
afternoon, was conscious of a little uncomfortable lump in her 
right shoe. She was also conscious of an innocent bravado 
of shame as the lump worked from the hollow of her instep 
toward her toes. A soft red, and a delicious, silly smile, 
overspread her face. The lump was composed of some dried 
sprigs of the plant called boys'-love, or southernwood. Em- 
meline believed firmly in the superstition concerning it. She 
was sure that a girl with a sprig of boys'-love in her shoe would 
marry the first boy whom she met. In summer, when the plant 
with its long gray-green aromatic leaves flourished in 
the garden, she often wore a sprig in her shoe, and she 
had secretly pressed some in her own particular books, 
in order that she might be able to try the charm in the winter- 
time. Emmeline had too much credulity and imagination to be 
in a perfectly normal state; or, on the contrary, she may have 
been too normal, with all her human instincts dangerously near 
the surface, and as prone to injury as her great-grandmother's 
egg-shell china teacups. 2 

Some stories are so impersonal that they may be said 
to have no point of view. The author simply tells them 
; " for what they are worth," for mere entertainment, as 
though someone had told him, or he had seen the hap- 
penings, and he impartially unreeled the yarn. The 
third-person style of narration is peculiarly suitable to 
this sort of story. The story itself is everything, the 

2 The Joy of Youth, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Harper's t 
Dec, 1907. 


author nothing. Adventure, spirited action, and humor 
are types well suited to this form of story-telling. See 
how the author keeps out of sight in " Fleas is Fleas," 
by Ellis Parker Butler. 3 

Mike Flannery was the star boarder at Mrs. Muldoon's, and 
he deserved to be so considered, for he had boarded with Mrs. 
Muldoon for years, and was the agent of the Interurban Express 
Company at Woodcote, while Mrs. Muldoon's other boarders 
were largely transient. 

"Mike," said Mrs. Muldoon one noon when Mike came for 
his lunch, " I know th' opinion ye have of Dagos, and niver 
a-one have I took into me house, and I think the same of thim 
meself — dirthy things, an' takin' the bread away from th' honest 
American laborin' man — and I would not be thinkin' of takin' 
one t' board at this day, but would ye tell me this : — is a Frinch- 
min a Dago?" 

Flannery raised his knife and laid down the law with it. 

" Mrs. Muldoon, mam," he said, " there be two kinds of 
Frinchmin. There be the respictible Frinchmin, and there be 
th' unrespictible Frinchmin. They both be furriners, but they 
be classed different. Th' respictible Frinchmin is no worse 
than th' Dutch, and is classed as Dutch, but th' other kind is 
Dagos. There is no harm in the Dutch Frinchmin, for thim 
is such as Napoleon Bonnypart and the like of him, but ye 
want t' have nawthing t' do with the dago Frinch. They be a 
bad lot." 

A more subtle art is required to convey the impression 
that the narrator (in the third person) was a comrade in 
the enterprise, a witness of the drama, an intimate of the 
characters, and yet never explicitly say so, nor even for 
a moment emerge from the narrator's hazy background. 
Many of " O. Henry's " most diverting stories suggest 

3 American Magazine, Dec, 1907. 


this intimacy of experience. There is a fine sense of the 
author's close relation to his narrative in H. B. Dean's 
" Pluck Versus Diplomacy," a delicately sympathetic 
sketch. 4 

Some people said St. Margaret's Hospital was the coolest 
place in town. This might be true up in the large, dim wards 
with windows wide and awnings dropped, but below in the 
basement dispensary it was hot, sticky, and malodorous. From 
the ambulance courts six granite steps led down to a door 
opening on a large, low-ceilinged room, lighted and aired by 
two small windows. With its hard wooden benches, it was a 
weary waiting place that hot August day for those who came 
for treatment. 

Some few talked in low tones to chance acquaintances of the 
dispensary, but the majority sat in silence, watching the glass 
door which led to an adjoining room. Occasionally this door 
would be opened by a nurse whose " Next ! " lessened the wait- 
ers by one. Early in the day her voice was as crisp and fresh 
as the blue and white uniform she wore, but with the lengthened 
shadows in the court voice and gown became limp. 

The benches were almost empty when a small boy, balancing 
his thin body on one leg, hopped down the granite steps and 
sank wearily on the nearest seat. The occupants of the benches 
gathered around with cries of sympathy. As their voices pene- 
trated to the adjoining room, a white-coated young house- 
surgeon came out. At his approach 1 . group parted, and the 
boy, raising his arms as if to a friend, whispered, " Say, doc, 
will youse give us a lift? My foot it's queered this time for 

In creating the illusion of the author's close relation 
to his narrative there is a danger: the reader uncon- 
sciously demands that the narrator confine his statements 
to such things as could have been observed or learned 

4 Lip pine o it's, Oct., 1907. 


naturally. The universal pass-key to the human sanctu- 
ary is denied him — he must use only his powers of in- 
ference and observation. 

When the narrator keeps absolutely out of sight, by 
common consent we refrain from asking " how do you 
know ? " Every one admits his right and his ability to 
peep into secret places and report the most private con- 
versations and events. To him even the meditations of a 
maiden are an open page. 

So here is a strong motive for the beginner to adopt 
this style of telling a story. He need not worry, he 
thinks, with trying to make his puppets disclose their 
inmost selves by word and deed, for in a single sentence 
he may furnish them with emotions and sentiments ; 
furthermore, he knows that the latter method is the 
easier, even though immeasurably less artistic. For his 
inability to reveal character and feeling by dialogue and 
incident he consoles himself by remembering that his 
story must be short. Really, just here is the difference 
between superior and inferior story-telling. 

2. The First Person 

There are more varieties of the story told in the first 
person than in any other form. 

First, there is the story told by the principal actor. 
In the hands of an expert the most convincing results 
are attained. (To what reality, to what personal ap- 
proach, does Zola attain in " The Death of Olivier Be- 
caille"! 5 ) If it is tol'd seriously, the greatest care is 

5 See p. 376, No. 11. 


needed to steer a middle course between an egotistic ex- 
hibition and an over-modest dullness. One recalls Em- 
erson's mot : " I have the feeling that every man's 
biography is at his own expense." 

When an adventurer tells of his own exploits we ex- 
pect and amusedly tolerate the tone of bombast naturally 
adopted by the lovable knave, as in the exploits of the 
inimitable Gerard. 6 No narrator but himself could do 
justice to his superb aplomb. The bragging is part of 
the fun ; underneath is the feeling of heart and valor. 

But the first-person story may also be told by a minor 
actor — Poe's favorite device, as in " The Gold Bug." 7 
This offers less dangers than the method just referred to. 
By a modest display of good qualities, and by subordinat- 
ing himself to the principal character, the narrator escapes 
the imputation of egotism, while still allowing himself 
a considerable place in the action. In his Sherlock 
Holmes stories Conan Doyle has assigned such a part 
to Dr. Watson, though the physician's chief business is 
to glorify his astute friend. When well handled, no 
more convincing form of story-telling can be adopted — 
but don't overlook the qualifying clause. 

Another variation is that in which a minor character 
tells of the deeds of his enemy, who is nevertheless the 
central figure in the story. 

Again, the narrator may tell the story as an observer, 
with only the slenderest part, or no real participation, 
in the action. Such an attitude is gracefully assumed 

6 The Adventures of Brigadier Gerard, A. Conan Doyle. 

7 See p. 376, No. 11. 


t>y Alphonse Daudet in the sketches and short-stories 
in Letters From My Mill. 8 Such also is the author's 
attitude in Edward Everett Hale's " The Man Without 
a Country." 9 

Two further varieties of the first-person story may 
be noted. In the one the narrator tells his story directly 
to the reader, addressing him as " you," and even re- 
minding him of former experiences together, or of 
stories told on previous occasions. Here it would seem 
best to avoid extremes of intimacy with the reader. Few 
can carry them off with a natural air. Such familiarity 
will attract some readers, but others it will repel. In 
the second sort, the author tells his story either to a lay 
figure, or to some more active character in the plot. 

A hackneyed device is to tell the story in the first 
person after having introduced the speaker by a second 
person, who really thus reports the story " as it was 
told to me." You may be sure of two things in this 
connection: a story begun in this style must possess un- 
usual merit to offset the triteness of its introduction; 
and, it is a hard task to convince the reader that you 
could not have plunged into the story in the first person 
direct, relying upon the opening sentences to set the 
scene. Still, if you can do it exquisitely, go ahead. No 
rule in art is so good but that it may well be broken by 
a master stroke. Kipling occasionally delights to fly in 
the face of conventions of form, and does it so originally 
that we are grateful to him for showing us that there 

8 See p. 376, No. 10. 

9 §ee p. 376, No. 11, 


are no really worn-out methods. One wonders, how- 
ever, what would result if the same degree of ingenuity 
were trained upon a new device. I give space to the 
following lengthy introduction to " The Solid Muldoon," 
from Kipling's Soldiers Three, because it so fully dis- 
plays both the merits and the demerits of the story within 
a story. Note the false starts, the digressive remarks, 
the atmosphere, the characterization — a jumble of good 
literary method and bad. In extenuation, it must be re- 
membered that this story is one of a series. 

This befell in the old days, and, as my friend Private Mul- 
vaney was specially careful to make clear, the Unregenerate. 

There had been a royal dog-fight in the ravine at the back of 
the rifle-butts, between Learoyd's Jock and Ortheris's Blue Rot — 
both mongrel Rampur hounds, chiefly ribs and teeth. It lasted 
for twenty happy, howling minutes, and then Blue Rot col- 
lapsed and Ortheris paid Learoyd three rupees, and we were 
all very thirsty. A dog-fight is a most heating entertainment, 
quite apart from the shouting, because Rampurs fight over a 
couple of acres of ground. Later, when the sound of belt 
badges clinking against the necks of beer-bottles had died 
away, conversation drifted from dog to man fights of all kinds. 
Humans resemble red-deer in some respects. Any talk of fight- 
ing seems to wake up a sort of imp in their breasts, and they 
bell one to the other, exactly like challenging bucks. This is 
noticeable even in men who consider themselves superior to 
privates of the line; it shows the refining influence of civilization 
and the march of progress. 

Tale provoked tale, and each tale more beer. Even dreamy 
Learoyd's eyes began to brighten, and he unburdened himself 
of a long history in which a trip to Molham Cove, a girl at 
Pateley Brigg, a gauger, himself and a pair of clogs were mixed 
in drawling tangle. " An' so Ah coot's yead oppen from t' chin 
to t' hair an' he was abed for t' matter o' a month," concluded 
Learoyd, pensively. 


Mulvaney came out of a reverie — he was lying down — and 
flourished his heels in the air. " You're a man, Learoyd," said 
he, critically, "but you've only fought wid men, an' that's an 
ivry-day expayrience; but I've stud up to a ghost, an' that was 
not an ivry-day expayrience." 

"No?" said Ortheris, throwing a cork at him. "You git up 
an' address the 'ouse — you an' yer expayriences. Is it a bigger 
one nor usual?" 

" 'Twas the livin' trut' ! " answered Mulvaney, stretching out a 
huge arm and catching Ortheris by the collar. " Now where 
are ye, me son? Will ye take the wurrud av the Lorrd out av 
me mout' another time ? " He shook him to emphasize the 

" No, somethin' else, though," said Ortheris, making a dash at 
Mulvaney's pipe, capturing it, and holding it at arm's length ; 
* I'll chuck it across the ditch if you don't let me go ! " 

" You maraudin' hathen ! 'Tis the only cutty I iver loved. 
Handle her tinder or I'll chuck you acrost the nullah. If that 
poipe was bruk — Ah ! Give her back to me, sorr ! " 

Ortheris had passed the treasure to my hand. It was an ab- 
solutely perfect clay, as shiny as the black ball at pool. I took 
it reverently, but I was firm. 

"Will you tell us about the ghost-fight if I do?" I said. 

"Is ut the sthory that's troublin' you? Av course I will. I 
mint to all along. I was only gettin' at ut my own way, as 
Popp Doggie said whin they found him thrying to ram a cart- 
ridge down the muzzle. Orth'ris, fall away ! " 

He released the little Londoner, took back his pipe, filled it, 
and his eyes twinkled. He has the most eloquent eyes of anyone 
that I know. 

" Did I iver tell you," he began, " that I was wanst the divil 
av a man ? " 

" You did," said Learoyd, with a childish gravity that made 
Ortheris yell with laughter, for Mulvaney was always impressing 
upon us his merits in the old days. 

"Did I iver tell you," Mulvaney continued, calmly, "that I 
was wanst more av a divil than I am now ? " 

" Mer-ria ! You don't mean it ? " said Ortheris. 


"Whin I was corp'ril — I was rejuced aftherwards — but, as 
I say, whin I was corp'ril, I was a divil of a man." 

He was silent for nearly a minute, while his mind rummaged 
among old memories and his eyes glowed. He bit upon the 
pipe stem and charged into his tale. 

3. The Letter Form 10 

This well-worn scheme of the first-person story is sure 
to be adopted by the uninitiated. Sometimes the letters 
are written by but one character and tell the whole story ; 
again the replies may be given, or a whole round of 
correspondents may contribute the narrative. Try this 
form if you will, succeed if you can, and all the 
more credit if you do, but by adopting it you take on a 
heavy handicap. When Richardson wrote Pamela the 
scheme was new. 

I have rarely advised young writers against the letter- 
form but they have quoted such successful books as the 
Baroness von Hutten's Our Lady of the Beeches and the 
anonymous The Lady of the Decoration. Of course the 
argument is unanswerable. Yet ask any experienced 
manuscript reader how many failures are to be recorded 
as contrasted with the few modern successes in the letter 
form. However, if your work is good enough, some 
publisher will print it, and the public will buy it, in any 

4. The Diary Form 

A diary is an intimate letter to one's self. As a Ac- 
tive form it has been employed with fine skill; but the 

10 See The Technique of the Novel, Home, p. 245. 


same warning holds as in the case of the epistolary style 
— do it well or do it not at all. " Love in Old 
Clothes," " by H. C. Bunner, is a fair sample of ingen- 
uity in this line. Notwithstanding its archaic spelling 
the effect is pleasing. A masterpiece is Maupassant's 
" The Horla." 12 The genuinely humorous diary, after 
the manner of Judge Shute, 13 is still unhackneyed. If 
conversation is introduced, all the better. As a form, 
however, the diary is best suited for character study, and 
that is always dull reading in the short-story when un- 
enlivened by dialogue. 

5. The Composite Form 

Many writers seek novel expression by combining the 
various forms. For instance, the story of adventure is 
begun in the first person and, in order to permit the nar- 
rator to die, a second narrator finishes the story — a fee- 
ble device no matter if masters do use it. Others tell the 
story by casting it in several parts, each told by a different 
character speaking in the first person. A story told en- 
tirely by telegrams is still another scheme. Brander 
Matthews and H. C. Bunner wrought a rather ineffective 
novelty in " The Documents in the Case," 14 a story told 
by two-score exhibits made up of letters, telegrams, play- 
bills, a pawn ticket, I-O-U's, legal documents, and the 

11 See p. 377, No. 19. 

12 See p. 376, No. 10. 

13 The Real Diary of a Real Boy. 

14 See p. 2>77> No. 18. 


like. The magazines will furnish examples of other nov- 
elty methods a-plenty. 

Though merely an anecdote, the following incident will 
serve to illustrate the fictional possibilities of a telephone 
conversation heard at one end of the line, the imaginative 
reader being permitted to fill in the gaps. 

This is the story of a balking mule named " Shoe," 
driven by an old negro named " Abe," and owned by a 
wholesale feed house. One day Shoe balked on Broad 
Street and refused absolutely to be driven again. After 
old Abe had spent his energies on Shoe for an hour in 
the vain endeavor to get him to start, he went into a 
store to telephone his employers. The following is what 
a party of gentlemen near the telephone heard : 


" Please, marm, gimme number two hund'ed an' 'leven. Is dat 
you, Marse Henry? . . . Yessir, dis is Abe. I dun ring yer 
up, sir, ter tell you about Shoe. Shoe, he dun balk down yer on 
Broad Street, sir." 

'Bout a hour, sir." 

Yessir, I bus' him in de head. 

" I dun wear de whip handle out on him, sir." 

" Yessir, I kick him in de belly 'bout eight times, sir." 

" Marse Henry, I would ha' kick um some mo' but I hu't me 
big toe on um de las' time I kick um." 

"Twis' he tail? No, sir, not dis nigger. A gemman from 
New York, he twis' he tail." 


" No, sir, I don't think he dead. De doctor take him 'way in 
de amb'lance." 

Yessir, it was sure foolish.' 

" Marse Henry, I done set fire under Shoe/ 

De harness? Dun bu'n de harness clean off urn." 

"De cart? Yessir, dun bu'n de cart too, sir, all 'cept one 
wheel, sir." 

Yessir, I git de feed out fust, sir. 

" Marse Henry, is you want me to come back to de store 
and go to work, or mus' I wait f er Shoe to move ? " 15 

Doubtless new forms are still to be devised and it is 
well to seek them out. In his Lives of the Poets 16 
Samuel Johnson remarks : " The great source of pleas- 
ure is variety. Uniformity must tire at last, though it 
be uniformity of excellence. We love to expect; and, 
when expectation is disappointed or gratified, we want 
to be again expecting." 

But permanent success in the short-story field must 
look for its secret to more than variety, more than nov- 
elty, more than ingenuity. Any one of the simpler 
forms of narration is still an uncovered field. There 
are more touch-downs to be won by straight football than 
by tricks. 

; «"L." in Walnuts and Wine, Lippincott's, Oct, 1906. 
16 Vol. I, p. 219. 


How Stories are Told 

i. In the Third Person 

2. In the First Person 

3. Letter Form 

4. Diary Form 

5. Composite Form 


1. Write a story of simple incident, in the third person. 

2. Rewrite it in the first person, assuming the part of the 
leading character. 

3. Rewrite it, assuming the part of one of the minor char- 

4. Which form yielded the most satisfactory results to you 

5. Write a story in the form of telegrams. 

6. Write one side of a telephone conversation, telling a simple 

7. Try to suggest a fresh form of telling a story. 



Well begun is half done. — Old Proverb. 

The last thing that we find in making a book is to know what 
we must put first. — Pascal, Thoughts. 

Most people have a very strong impulse to preface something 
in particular by at least a paragraph of nothing in particular, 
bearing to the real matter in hand a relation not more inher- 
ently intimate than that of the tuning of violins to a sym- 
phony. It is the mechanical misfortune of musicians that they 
cannot with certainty tune their instruments out of hearing. 
It is the mechanical luck of the writer that he need not show a 
bit more of his work than he chooses. — Barrett Wendell, 
English Composition. 

All stories must have beginnings, but not all begin- 
nings should be introductions. The fiction writer's im- 
mediate concern is to get a picture quickly and clearly 
set in the mind's eye of the reader — to establish the 
reader in a way of thinking or a way of feeling. How 
he shall go about this depends solely upon the nature 
of the story and the impression he wishes to make. The 
reader may require the knowledge of some fundamental 
facts before he can take in the details of the picture, and 
that means introducing the story more or less formally. 
Upon the other hand — the better hand, as I think — the 
story may be such that the reader should be plunged into 



the action at once. Between these extremes lie all sorts 
and gradations. 


For this inquiry I have examined and broadly classi- 
fied the openings of six hundred short-stories, including 
tales and sketches of the short-story type. The list takes 
in what critics and public regard as the world's greatest 
stories. The authors selected are nearly all well-known, 
and in most instances famous. Practically all the stories 
were written within the last seventy-five years, and a 
large majority since 1870. American stories preponder- 
ate, with French, British, German, Russian, Italian, Scan- 
dinavian, Polish, Hungarian, Spanish, and minor nation- 
alities following in about the order named. Current fic- 
tion has been given due regard as compared with the 
short-story of the period preceding 1870. Altogether, 
the investigation seems well calculated to give us a fair 
view of how approved story-tellers begin their narra- 

It must be noted that many introductions — I now use 
the word as broadly covering the beginning of a story, 
whether the author formally introduces the setting or 
plunges directly into the thick of the action — exhibit 
more than one purpose. For example, in giving initial 
prominence to a character some details of the setting are 
often worked in ; or, in electing to give the setting first, 
the author is likely at the same time to touch upon some 
character of the story. In attempting this classification 


the predominating phase of the introduction has been 
taken as determining its class. 

1. Stories That Open With Dialogue 

There is a general impression that a considerable num- 
ber of short-stories begin in this manner. The actual 
proportion is surprisingly small, though the usage of the 
last ten years tends moderately in that direction, particu- 
larly among writers who produce fiction of the light and 
"clever" kind. 

Of the six hundred stories examined, only fifty-one — 
less than ten per cent. — were found to begin with con- 
versation, and these were rarely stories of great merit. 
Observe, however that conversation occurs very early 
in a large proportion of the total number of stories ex- 

These fifty-one stories may be grouped in five subdivi- 
sions : 

(a) Twenty-six use the opening dialogue to give the 
setting. 1 In the term " setting " are included the sur- 
roundings in which the action begins, the mood which 
dominates the situation, and the conditions under which 
the story opens. It may be compared to the scene which 
meets the eye when the curtain rises on the stage. As 
we see in the following example, the characters appear 
even while the stage is being set, and this on account 
of the dialogue form. 

1 See the next chapter ; also chap. xii. 




"True bill; I'm awfully sorry." 
' Thomas Fleming took his cigar out of his mouth, and con- 
templated the lighted end. He did not speak. The other man, 
his lawyer, who had brought him the unwelcome news, began 
to make the best of it. 

"Of course, it's an annoyance; but — " 

"Well, yes. It's an annoyance," Fleming said, dryly. 

Bates chuckled. " It strikes me, Tom, considering the differ- 
ence between this and the real thing, that 'annoyance' is just 
the right word to use." 

Fleming leaned over and knocked off the ashes into his waste 
basket. He was silent. 

" As for Hammond, he won't have a leg to stand on. I don't 
know what Ellis and Grew meant by letting him take the case 
before the Grand Jury. He won't have a leg to stand on ! " 

" Give me a light, will you, Bates ? This cigar has gone out 

Note how deftly the setting is conveyed by dialogue — 
a lawyer and his client are seated discussing the latter's 
indictment for an offense against the law. The lawyer's 
attitude and that of the client, their estimate of the case, 
and the names of their opponents, are all quickly brought 
before the reader. The situation made this handling 
possible. Few situations can be opened up in the same 
manner. You may read through a number of magazines 
without finding a single short-story of distinction, as 
" Many Waters " certainly is, which opens with a con- 

(b) Twelve use the opening dialogue to delineate the 
characters. That is, the emphasis is placed on the char- 

2 Margaret Deland, Collier's, May 13, 1905. 


acters rather than on the atmosphere in which they 
move — an easier performance always than that accom- 
plished by Mrs. Deland. 


" Ah ! " cried Wilberton, sitting up straight in his chair on 
the year-round resort hotel veranda. " Here is where Dull 
Monotony packs his things and hikes from the seaside." 

" I should like to know why," commented Mrs. Wilberton 
skeptically. " I am sure nothing has occurred — " 

"Well, something will occur very shortly," her husband 
assured her. " Why," he exclaimed, " things simply cannot be 
quiescent with a woman as pretty as that in their midst." 

He nodded. Mrs. Wilberton, letting her gaze follow the di- 
rection of the nod, saw a young woman following the valise- 
encumbered porter toward the hotel entrance. She was a tall 
young woman, and slender, and her tan traveling gown was 
unquestionably in the latest style. By the hand she held a 
very small boy who was having great trouble with a very large 
straw hat. 

" Your taste in women is constantly changing," Mrs. Wilber- 
ton averred in a tone which plainly conveyed her contempt for 
such inconsistency. Mrs. Wilberton was fat, and she was not 
tall, and her eyes were not gray. "Since when — " 

" Oh, I always liked them tall and slender ! " 

" This one is positively thin ! " 

" And with dark hair and big gray eyes ! " 

" One can never be sure about hair." 

" And clear, clean complexion, free of drugstore blush — " 

" It is certainly absurd to regard that complexion as real, or 
pretty, or even artistically done. And anyhow it will not last 
two days in this sun and sea breeze." 

" She walks well, a sort of queenly gait — " 

"Very carefully studied from some second-rate actress, I dare 
say — not at all natural, and decidedly — er — indolent." 

"She doesn't seem to be very enthusiastic," agreed Wilberton. 

3 Harrison Clark, Hampton's Broadway, July, 1908. 


(c) Nine use the opening dialogue to suggest the 
spirit of the story. The two openings which follow will 
make this clear. 


" My dear fellow," said Sherlock Holmes, as we sat on either 
side of the fire in his lodgings at Baker Street, " life is infinitely- 
stranger than anything the mind of man can invent. We would 
not dare to conceive the things which are really mere common- 
places of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand 
in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, 
and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange 
coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful 
chain of events, working through generations, and leading to 
the most outre results, it would make all fiction, with its con- 
ventionalities and foreseen conclusions, most stale and un- 


" De daid," asserted Aunt Janty Gibbs solemnly, " con-fm-ually 
do walk." 

" Does dey walk all tuh wunst ? " inquired her grandson, 
Gabriel Gibbs, a youth with an unquenchable thirst for informa- 
tion on all subjects. 

" No, chile," returned his grandmother with a superior air, 
" dey walks sometimes in twos an' sometimes in threes, but 
mos'ly dey walks alone in de night-time." 

"Dey's a time comin', Aun' Janty, when dey's all gwine tuh 
walk tuh wunst," remarked Brother Eli Wiggins with con- 

"Whut yo' 'ludin' tuh, Brothah Wiggins, whut yo' 'ludin' 
tuh ? " asked Aunt Janty as she hospitably replenished his cup, 
while Gabriel improved the opportunity to slip, unnoticed from 
the room. 

4 A Conan Doyle. See p. 377, No. 14. 

5 Ella Middleton Tybout, Lippincott's, May, 1904. 


" Dey's a time comin'," he replied pouring the steaming tea 
into his saucer, " when ole Gabriel am gwine tuh soun' de note 
on he hawn good an' loud. Den de graves am gwine tuh bus' 
open an' de daid come fo'th tuh walk up an' down in de worl', 
tuh an' fro in hit. Y-a-a-s, Aun' Janty, dat's so." 

Brother Wiggins paused and looked solemnly at his hostess. 

"Aun' Janty," he said, his voice sinking to a sepulchral whis- 
per, " dat time ain' so fuh off ez mos' folks b'lieves." 

In this latter story, the opening dialogue, while giving 
us the spirit of the story, both sets the stage and brings 
on the characters. 

(d) Two use the opening dialogue to lead up to the 
story proper by fact or explanation. This form is in 
fact a true introduction, yet only two stories out of the 
six hundred examined begin with dialogue used for this 
purpose. As for a reason, the style is antiquated. Writ- 
ers prefer to pack preliminary statements into a few 
concise sentences rather than burden the dialogue with 
explanations which are as unnatural in the mouths of 
the characters as are similar " information speeches " on 
the lips of actors in " Act I. Scene I " of the ordinary 
play. A stronger reason for discarding this old form is 
that the crisp modern short-story does not begin in the 
past, but on the very threshold of the plot, if not in the 
middle, as one magazine editor used to put it. 

(e) Two use the opening dialogue solely to win at- 
tention. This seems like a waste of good type and paper. 
Besides, it is difficult enough to start a conversation bril- 
liantly and yet make it naturally lead up to something 
else, without making epigrams solely to gain a reading. 
The brilliant talk which opens one and another of An- 


thony Hope's Dolly Dialogues is never mere fireworks, 
but is full of delicate light and heat. 

Think how fearful of his story Wilhelm Hauff must 
have been when he essayed to catch the reader by this 
transparent introduction ; yet he had a good story to 


"It is a strange occurrence, truly," said Councillor Bolnau to 
a friend whom he met on Broad Street in B. "You must con- 
fess that this is a queer age we live in." 

" You mean the affair in the North ? " answered his friend. 
"Have you important news, councillor? Has your friend, the 
foreign minister, told you some important secret of state?" 

" Oh, don't bother me with politics or state secrets ; let them 
go as they may. I mean now the affair of Mademoiselle 

To sum up: Of the fifty-one stories that begin with 
dialogue, one-half devote the opening conversation to 
the setting, one-fourth to characterization, less than one- 
fifth to giving the spirit of the story, and one-twenty-fifth 
each to introductory facts and to an effort to cajole the 
reader's attention. The conversational opening is not 
so common as is supposed. Many stories will be found, 
however, in which the conversation begins in the second 
or third paragraph. The dialogue opening is the most 
difficult one to do well, and the easiest to do badly. 

2. Stories That Open Without Dialogue 

Five hundred and forty-nine stories of the six hundred 
which were classified belong under this grouping. This 

6 See p. 377, No. 21. 


clearly shows that expert writers regard the opening 
sentences of a story as of the highest value. They real- 
ize that they must compress into a few words the essence 
of all that the reader ought to know in order to take 
up the story with intelligent interest. This is the sense 
in which the word " introduction " applies to the short- 
story of to-day. The usage of Irving, Poe, and Haw- 
thorne was generally more leisurely than that of present- 
day masters (though they displayed occasional examples 
of rapid openings), for the short-story has progressed, 
in some regards, since the days of its perfecters, and in 
no respect more than in its introductions. Seldom nowa- 
days does one find the long and irrelevant opening sen- 
tences which were tolerated a generation ago. It is true, 
by this compression the reader loses some finer touches, 
some detail, some reflective temper, some flights of fan- 
tasy, but for these he goes to the novel, and looks to the 
short-story for those illuminating flashes of word and 
phrase so rarely found in the longer fictional form. The 
novelist takes time to be lengthy, the short-story writer 
takes time to be brief. " Smith," says he, " I want you 
to know my brother Jack," and the introduction is ac- 
complished, not without thought, not without painstaking, 
but withal briefly. 

Remembering always that several sorts often overlap, 
therefore not analyzing too minutely, I subdivide the five 
hundred and forty-nine stories into seven groups, ac- 
cording to the purposes disclosed by their beginnings. 

(a) Two hundred and seven open by giving the set- 
ting, often including a glimpse of the characters. 


I have said that the word " setting " includes the sur- 
roundings in which the action begins, 7 the mood which 
dominates the situation, the conditions under which the 
story opens. It is less concerned with who 's who than 
with what 's what, and why. 



Well, when I had been dead about thirty years, I begun to 
get a little anxious. Mind you, I had been whizzing through 
space all that time, like a comet. Like a comet! Why, Peters, 
I laid over the lot of them! Of course there warn't any of 
them going my way, as a steady thing, you know, because they 
travel in a long circle like the loop of a lasso, whereas I was 
pointed as straight as a dart for the Hereafter; but I happened 
on one every now and then that was going my way for an hour 
or so, and then we had a bit of a brush together. But it was 
generally pretty one-sided, because I sailed by them the same 
as if they were standing still. An ordinary comet don't make 
more than about 200,000 miles a minute. Of course when I 
came across one of that sort — like Encke's and Halley's comets, 
for instance — it warn't anything but just a flash and a vanish, 
you see. You couldn't rightly call it a race. It was as if the 
comet was a gravel-train, and I was a telegraph dispatch. But 
after I got outside of our astronomical system, I used to flush 
a comet occasionally that was something like. We haven't got 
any such comets — ours don't begin. 

And then follows the first incident of the story. 

Of another sort, yet also establishing the setting, are 
these opening lines of Dr. Watson's story. 

7 It also includes more. See the next chapter. 

8 Harper's, Dec, 1907. 





A General Practitioner 

Drumtochty was accustomed to break every law of health, 
except wholesome food and fresh air, and yet had reduced the 
psalmist's furthest limit to an average life-rate. Our men made 
no difference in their clothes for summer or winter, Drumsheugh 
and one of the larger farmers condescending to a top-coat on 
Sabbath as a penalty of their position, and without regard to 
temperature. They wore their blacks at a funeral, refusing to 
cover them with anything, out of respect to the deceased, and 
standing longest in the kirkyard when the north wind was blow- 
ing across a hundred miles of snow. If the rain was pouring at 
the junction, then Drumtochty stood two minutes longer through 
sheer native dourness till each man had a cascade from the tail 
of his coat, and hazarded the suggestion, half-way to Kildrum- 
mie, that it had been " a bit scrowie," a " scrowie " being as 
far short of a " shoor " as a " shoor " fell below " weet." 

Here is another variety of the same general sort. 



It was a charmingly mild and balmy day. The sun shone 
beyond the orchard and the shade was cool inside. A light 
breeze stirred the boughs of the old apple tree under which 
the philosopher sat. None of these things did the philosopher 
notice, unless it might be when the wind blew about the leaves 
of the large volume on his knees, and he had to find his place 
again. Then he would exclaim against the wind, shuffle the 
leaves till he got the right page, and settle to his reading. The 
book was a treatise on ontology; it was written by another 

9 From Beside the Bonnie Briar Bush, 
10 See p. 377, No. 20. 


philosopher, a friend of this philosopher's; it bristled with fal- 
lacies, and this philosopher was discovering them all, and noting 
them on the fly-leaf at the end. He was not going to review 
the book (as some might have thought from his behaviour), 
or even to answer it in a work of his own. It was just that 
he found a pleasure in stripping any poor fallacy naked and 
crucifying it. 

Then comes the girl and, with her, the story. 

A few lines suffice for some writers to fill in the bold 
outlines of the setting, the rest comes as the story 
goes on. 



Thursday being the first of November and All Saints' day, 
Miss Belden had attended the vesper services at S. Saviour's. 
On her way home across the Park she encountered Innsley. 
She stopped and shook hands cordially, for it had been several 
months since they had met. 

(b) One hundred thirty-eight open with character 
delineation, often adding a suggestion of the setting. 
Of these a large number begin with the pronoun " He," 
or " She." 

It is not difficult to discern why so many writers 
should elect to begin their narratives by painting in the 
setting, and why character-drawing should come first 
with only a slightly smaller number. Setting and char- 
acters are the picturesque elements in fiction, and it is 
inevitable that the two — one or the other predominating, 
or both standing on a level — should be present first 
and last in the author's vision. It is this selfsame vision 

11 Harper's, July, 1908. 


that the reader must be made to see, and what way so 
clear and so direct as the opening words of the story. 

In the following introduction (in the whimsical style 
of Irving, but not up to that standard) we have a typical 
example of the character opening. 



A certain fallen angel (politeness toward his numerous and 
influential friends forbids me to mention his name abruptly) 
lately entered into the body of Mr. Ananias Pullwool, of Wash- 
ington, D. C. 

As the said body was a capacious one, having been greatly 
enlarged circumferentially since it acquired its full longitude, 
there was accommodation in it for both the soul of Pullwool 
himself (it was a very little one) and for his distinguished 
visitant. Indeed, there was so much room in it that they never 
crowded each other, and that Pullwool hardly knew, if he so 
much as mistrusted, that there was a chap in with him. But 
other people must have been aware of this double tenantry, 
or at least must have been shrewdly suspicious of it, for it soon 
became quite common to hear fellows say, " Pullwool has got 
the Devil in him." 

Compare the triteness of the following introduction — 
always Dr. Doyle's difficult spot — with the freshness of 
Mr. Hewlett's opening paragraph, the next specimen. 



Do I know why Tom Donahue is called " Lucky Tom " ? 
Yes, I do; and that is more than one in ten of those who call 

i 2 Atlantic, Dec, 1872. 
13 See p. 377, No. 20. 


him so can say. I have knocked about a deal in my time, and 
seen some strange sights, but none stranger than the way in 
which Tom gained that sobriquet, and his fortune with it. For 
I was with him at the time. Tell it? Oh, certainly; but it is 
a longish story and a very strange one; so fill up your glass 
again, and light another cigar while I reel it off. Yes, a very 
strange one; beats some fairy stories I have heard; but it's true, 
sir, every word of it. 



It is happily as unnecessary as it would be unwise to inquire 
into the ancestry of Bellaroba, a meek-eyed Girl of Venice, with 
whom I have some concern. Her mother was La Fragiletta, of 
the Old Ghetto, and her father may have been of the Council 
of Ten, or possibly a Doge. No one could deny it, for no one 
knew his name. It is certain that his daughter was not chris- 
tened as she was called, equally certain that the nickname fitted 
her. Bella roba, a pretty thing, she always had been for her 
mother's many friends ; bella roba in truth she looked, as La 
Fragiletta fastened her dark red dress, stuck a bunch of carna- 
tions in the bosom of it, and pulled up the laces around her 
slim neck, on a certain May morning in or about the year 1469. 
" The shape you are, child," said that industrious woman, " I 
can do nothing for you in Venice. It is as timid as a nun's. 
Ferrara is the place of all the world for you. I look forward 
to your speedy establishment in a city where a girl may be like 
a flagstaff and yet not be thought amiss." 

(c) Seventy-six open directly with incident. No pre- 
liminary intaking of the breath, no pause to tighten the 
belt, not even a " here we go," but just a swift rush 
ahead. That is typical short-story form, toward which 
usage is markedly tending and in which writers are 

14 From Little Novels of Italy. 


showing increasing skill. It follows the dictum of Hor- 
ace, to plunge at once into the action. 

What become of both setting and character delinea- 
tion? Subtly interwoven as the story moves rapidly on 
— portraiture in one sure stroke, background in another, 
atmosphere in a third. Not all stories can be told in 
this fashion, but those that are, and told well, lay hold 
of the attention with a nervous grip. The difficulty lies 
in making the narrative keep the hold. But, difficulty 
or no difficulty, there is no phase of the story-teller's art 
which so richly repays labor as does the rapid introduc- 
tion. The beginner loves his phrases. They grew in 
sweat and pain. But he must learn the drastic art of 
amputation and learn it by practising on his own stories. 
Perhaps the editor does not appreciate how heroic is the 
author who carves and slices and pares until only the 
compact, firm, flesh-and-blood story appears on the 
well-typed page, but at all events he rejoices when he 
meets that kind of manuscript. 



Leading the girl to a corner of the crowded little parlor where 
a three-legged sofa leaned weakly against the wall, Doyle seated 
himself tentatively upon it and motioned with spread palm at 
the vacancy beside him. 

" Si' down, Maggie," he invited ; and the tall, slender-waisted, 
high-pompadoured girl before him did so. 

" Aw, say, Maggie," continued Doyle, as he endeavored, un- 
successfully, to hold her hand beneath a fold of skirt, " why 

16 Everybody's, Dec, 1907. 


don' yuh marry me and cut out sellin' stockin's to a bunch o' 
fussy dames that don' know what they wants, an' wouldn' buy 
it if they did ? I'm gittin' eighteen seventy-five now ; an' two 
can live on that. . . . Wha' d' yuh wan' tuh be worryin' 
yuhself with a job fer?" 

Alphonse Daudet is a master of all sorts of introduc- 
tions. A study of Letters From My Mill and Monday 
Tales will be a profit and a delight. The following is 
from the latter volume. 


That morning, which was a Sunday, Sureau, the pastry-cook 
on Rue Turenne, called his apprentice and said to him: 

" Here are Monsieur Bonnicar's little pies ; go and take them 
to him and come back at once. It seems that the Versaillais 
have entered Paris." 

The little fellow, who understood nothing about politics, put 
the smoking hot pies in the dish, the dish in a white napkin, and 
balancing the whole upon his cap, started off on a run for He 
St. Louis, where M. Bonnicar lived. 

Then follows that charming blending of atmosphere 
and incident so characteristic of the author. 



Every Sunday, as soon as they were at liberty, the two little 
soldiers would set forth. 

They would turn to the right on leaving the barracks, march 
rapidly through Courbevoie as if they were out for drill; then, 
as soon as they had left the houses behind, they would follow 
at a more quiet pace the bare and dusty high-road that leads to 

16 See p. 376, No. 10. 


Here we have in sixty-four words the first step in the 
incident, the characters, and the atmosphere. 

(d) Fifty-five open with the facts, events, or motives, 
which lead up to the story proper. These are real, old- 
fashioned introductions, modified by the new short-story 
spirit of brevity. 

The how-I-came-to-tell-this-story beginning belongs to 
this class — a device which rarely interests the reader, 
because it is so palpable an attempt to storm his confi- 
dence. Yet the masters use this opening now and then 
with singular effectiveness. One class of errors, how- 
ever, they uniformly avoid: introductions containing 
many or complex facts, events, or motives. 

Occasionally a popular writer seems to be so sure of 
his audience that he ventures upon a start which would 
not be tolerated in a beginner's manuscript, unless the 
latter told his story as skilfully as the former. Compare 
this labored commencement of a really good yarn, with 
Daudet's ingenious use of an old device. 



The events which I am about to relate took place between nine 
and ten years ago. Sebastopol had fallen in the early spring, the 
peace of Paris had been concluded since March, our commercial 
relations with the Russian empire were but recently renewed; 
and I, returning home after my first northward journey since 
the war, was well pleased with the prospect of spending the 

17 See p. 377, No. 20. 


month of December under the hospitable and thoroughly English 
roof of my excellent friend, Johnathan Jelf, Esq., of Dumbleton 
Manor, Clayborough, East Anglia. 

With more of the same unnecessary sort. 



Every year, at Candlemas, the Provencal poets publish at 
Avignon a merry little book filled to the covers with fine 
verses and pretty tales. Last year's has just reached me, and 
I find in it a delicious fabliau, which I am going to try to 
translate for you, shortening it a little. Hold out your sacks, 
Parisians. It is the very cream of Provencal flour that I am 
going to serve you this time. 

Here is another from the same fascinating Mill. 


Of all the clever sayings, proverbs, or saws with which our 
Provence peasants embellish their discourse, I know of none 
more picturesque or more peculiar than this. Within a radius 
of fifteen leagues of my mill, when anybody mentions a spite- 
ful, vindictive man, he will say : " Look out for that man ! he 
is like the Pope's mule, that keeps her kick for seven years." 

I tried for a long time to find out the source of that proverb, 
what that Papal mule might be, and that kick kept for seven 
years. No one here was able to give me any information on 
that subject, not even Francet Mamai, my fife-player, who, how- 
ever, has the whole legendary history of Provence at his finger- 
ends. Francet agrees with me that there is probably some old 
tradition of Provence behind it; but he has never heard it 
mentioned except in the proverb. 

18 From Letters From My Mill. 


" You won't find that anywhere except in the Grasshoppers' 
Library," said the old flfer, with a laugh. 

I thought the suggestion a good one, and as the Grasshoppers' 
Library is right at my door, I shut myself up there for a 

Notice how this introduction infallibly hints the mood 
of the story. Nervous or placid, gay or pathetic, gro- 
tesque or gloomy, the genuine beginning will suggest the 
spirit of the narrative. 

(e) Thirty-four open with some general truth which 
is illustrated in the story. When the truth is well put 
no beginning could be more pleasing. 



To M. Pierre Gringoire, Lyrical Poet at Paris. 

You will always be the same, my poor Gringoire! 

Think of it J you are offered the place of reporter on a re- 
spectable Paris newspaper, and you have the assurance to refuse ! 
Why, look at yourself, unhappy youth! Look at that worn-out 
doublet, those dilapidated breeches, that gaunt face, which cries 
aloud that it is hungry. And this is where your passion for 
rhyme has brought you ! this is the result of your ten years of 
loyal service among the pages of my lord Apollo! Aren't you 
ashamed, finally? 

Be a reporter, you idiot; be a reporter! You will earn honest 
crowns, you will have your special seat at Brebant's, and you 
will be able to appear every first night with a new feather in 
your cap. 

No? You will not? You propose to remain perfectly free to 
the end? Well! just listen to the story of Monsieur Seguin's 
goat. You will see what one gains by attempting to remain 

19 Letters From My Mill. 


Lucretia P. Hale begins her fantastic sketch, " The 
Spider's Eye," 20 by enlarging upon the fact that whisper- 
ing galleries exist. The chief character finds a spot in 
a theatre where all sounds, down to the slightest whisper, 
converge, and the strange things thus overheard make 
up the narrative. 

" The Tale of a Goblin Horse," 21 by Charles C. Nott, 
begins with a generalization. " Horses are like babies — 
chiefly interesting to their owners. Occasionally they 
emerge from the enclosure of home life, and become in- 
teresting to other people. One in a million may find his 
way into print, but most rare are the horses whose char- 
acters are worthy of record." 

Sometimes these observations show a fine insight into 
human nature: 

" Boys who are born in a small town are born free and 
equal," are the opening words of William Allen White's 
" The King of Boyville." 22 

(f) Eighteen open zvith expressions chiefly designed 
to attract attention. Here are three examples : 

" The distinguishing trait of Grubbins was his unex- 
pectedness. Grubbins was Dikkon's dog." 23 

" No man will ever know the exact truth of this story ; 
though women may sometimes whisper it to one another 
after a dance, when they are putting up their hair for 
the night and comparing lists of victims." 24 

20 Putnam's Magazine, July, 1856. Also see p. 377, No. 19 

21 Stories of the Army, see p. 377, No. 23. 

22 See p. 377, No. 27. 

23 Dikkon's Dog, by Dorothy Lundt ; see p. 377, No. 27. 

24 False Dawn, Rudyard Kipling, Under the Deodars. 


" This is the history of a Failure ; but the woman who 
failed said it might be an instructive tale to put into print 
for the benefit of the younger generation. The younger 
generation does not want instruction. It is perfectly will- 
ing to instruct if any one will listen to it. None the less, 
here begins the story where every right-minded story 
should begin, that is to say, at Simla, where all things 
begin and many come to an evil end." 25 

(g) Fifteen open with words about the character who 
afterwards tells the story in the first person. It takes 
either unusual ability or an unusual story to carry the 
weight of so timeworn a device. More " horrible ex- 
amples " are herded into this corral than into any other. 
Kipling does this sort of opening better than his contem- 
poraries, standing almost alone in excellence 26 — but 
occasionally even he comes to grief. 

In " Long Odds," one of Rider Haggard's Allan Quat- 
ermain stories, 27 two-thirds of the seven-hundred word 
introduction is wasted in irrelevancies. One wonders 
how even Daudet makes a success of this old device in 
" Master Cornille's Secret," 28 but he does, and imparts 
an air of truth, to boot. Would an editor to-day pass 
the following introduction? 

" Francet Mamai, an old fifer, who comes sometimes to pass 
the evening with me and drink mulled wine, told me the other 
evening of a little village drama which my mill witnessed some 
twenty years ago. The good man's story impressed me, and I 
propose to try to tell it to you as I heard it. 

23 The Education of Otis Ye ere, Kipling. 

26 See his Mulvaney stories in Soldiers Three, etc. 

27 See p. 377, No. 20. 

28 Letters From My Mill. 


"Imagine for a moment, dear readers, that you are seated 
before a jar of perfumed wine, and that it is an old fifer who is 

Instances of this sort rebuke the critic, and show how 
futile it is to call all things bad which conform to a given 
type. This introduction is good in spite of its form, not 
because of it — if we must now and again have recourse 
to a reason which is not altogether a reason. 

There yet remain to be accounted for six stories of the 
six hundred. This one per cent. I have labeled " un- 
classified," because their openings show marks of such 
varied character. One is a prologue of unwarranted 
length. 29 Another a preface. 30 A third, which shall be 
nameless, is a hodge-podge of every possible sort, intro- 
ducing by name no less than fifteen characters in the first 
paragraph ! In the fourth, Kipling 31 makes a native tell 
a story in the first person and the reader finds it out 
from the mere manner of the telling. The openings of 
the last two are quite nondescript. 


I shall not refer again to the forms which invite dis- 
aster, as just noted. In opening your story: 
Don't be pert. 
Don't be lengthy. 
Don't be general. 

29 A Terribly Strange Bed, Wilkie Collins. See p. 377, No. 20. 

30 The Legend of the Man with the Golden Brain, Alphonse 
Daudet, Letters From My Mill. 

sl In Black and White. 


Don't be garrulous. 

Don't be roundabout. 

Don't describe when you can suggest. 

Don't be heavy, pompous, or too serious. 

Don't tell the reader what he can imagine. 

Don't be content with a commonplace opening. 

Don't think that sincere simplicity is commonplace. 

Don't let the introduction weight down or overshadow 
the story. 

Don't strike one note in the introduction and another 
in the body of the story. 

Don't touch anything which is not a live wire leading 
direct to the real centre of the story. 

The Opening of the Story 

I. the best usage (six hundred stories examined). 

1. Fifty-one Open With Dialogue 

(a) Twenty-six Use Dialogue to Give the Set- 


(b) Twelve to Delineate Characters 

(c) Nine to Suggest the Spirit of the Story 

(d) Two to Supply Preliminary Explanations 

(e) Two to Win the Reader's Attention 

2. Five Hundred Forty-nine Open Without Dialogue 

(a) Two Hundred seven Open With the Setting 

(b) One Hundred Thirty-eight With Character 


(c) Seventy-six With Incident 

(d) Fifty-five With Introductory Facts 

(*) Thirty-four With General Truths Illustrated 
by the Stories 


(/) Eighteen With Expressions Designed to Wip 

(g) Fifteen With Words About the Secondaiv 

(h) Six Miscellaneous 



Note: Select any plots you please from Appendix C as bases 
for the following work. The instructor may vary these assign- 
ments indefinitely. 

1. Write merely the introduction to a story, beginning with 
dialogue to give the setting. 

2. Another, opening with dialogue to delineate a character. 

3. Another, using dialogue to lead up to the story proper by 
fact or explanation. 

4. Another, beginning without dialogue, giving the setting. 

5. Another, introducing a character. 

6. Another, opening directly with incident. 

7. Another, with facts or explanations which lead up to thn 
story proper. 

8. Rewrite one of the dialogue introductions given in this 
chapter, without the use of introductory dialogue. 

9. Rewrite another of the introductions, recasting it in dia- 
logue form. 

10. Do the same with your own writings, as assigned above. 



Marble, paint, and language, the pen, the needle, and the brush, 
all have their grossnesses, their ineffable impotences, their 
hours, if I may so express myself, of insubordination. It is the 
work and it is a great part of the delight of any artist to con- 
tend with these unruly tools, and now by brute energy, now 
by witty expedient, to drive and coax them to effect his will. — 
Stevenson, A Note on Realism. 

It is the habit of my imagination to strive after as full a 
vision of the medium in which a character moves as of the char- 
acter itself. The psychological causes which prompted me to 
give such details of Florentine life and history as I have given 
[in Romola] are precisely the same as those which determined 
me in giving the details of English village life in Silas Marner 
or the " Dodson " life, out of which were developed the destinies 
of poor Tom and Maggie. — George Eliot, quoted in her Life 
by J. W. Cross. 

Setting consists of the circumstances, material and im- 
material, in which the characters are seen to move in the 
story. Its elements are time, place, occupations, and 
(I lack a more expressive word) conditions. Each of 
these we must briefly examine, together with the literary 
devices by which setting is established. First, however, 
a general view. 




The setting of a short-story no more exists for its own 
sake than the setting of a diamond. The story — the 
diamond — is the chief thing. If the setting, by its or- 
nate style, its beauty, its imperfections, its very bulk, 
should overshadow and obscure the gem, it would be 
worse than useless. But when story and setting are in 
harmony, the effect is as of one jewel — each part in- 
deed not indistinguishable from the other, but so inte- 
grated that the highest enjoyment arises from considering 
them as a whole. Hold all things in true perspective. 

As the setting exists to glorify the short-story, so the 
story governs the tone of the setting. Do the charac- 
ters need contrast to silhouette them boldly, the setting 
must be accommodated to this requirement; and a like 
adaptation is required if harmony, instead of contrast, 
be the tone needed for their effective presentation. 

In the sketch, setting may rise to the eminent place 
and become practically the story itself; in the character- 
study it sinks to a subdued position. 

Certain story-tellers delight to create a setting and 
then let the characters work out their destinies in this 
fixed environment. There is no objection to this method 
for those who can employ it successfully, but in either 
case setting and characters must be harmonized or con- 
trasted artistically, and, as before, setting is for the sake 
of the story. Its influence is powerful. As in real life 
environment strongly influences character, so in fiction 
we may see the power of surroundings working upon 


the emotions, the moods, the actions, even the destinies 
of the characters. 1 Zola goes so far as to say that the 
environment " determines and completes the man." 2 

Setting is first of all a preparation. We have seen in 
the preceding chapter that its lines are often laid in the 
very opening paragraphs of the story. But it may also 
be progressive, and move, like the shadow of the traveler, 
everywhere the characters go, until at length, with the 
story's close, it lingers in the mind as an integral part 
of the picture. 

Setting is sometimes prophetic, forecasting, while it 
assists in creating, the mood of the story. 

Upon the reader, setting lays the impression of reality, 
or of unreality, in the picture. Without its realistic pic- 
torial help the story would be as bare as was the early 
drama unassisted by special costume and scenery. 

When the characters live, move, and have their being 
in the setting, the result is atmosphere. Atmosphere is 
thus an effect. It is felt, not s,een. Through its medium 
the reader must see all the action, yes, all the details of 
the story. Atmosphere gives value to the tones of fic- 
tion as in real life it does to landscape. The hills are 
actually the same in cloud and in sunshine, but the eye 
sees them as different through the mediate atmosphere. 
And so setting and characters, perfectly adjusted, make 
the reader, that is to say the beholder, see the story in 
the very tones the literary artist desires. A story of the 
sea has an atmosphere of its own, but the atmosphere 

1 As in Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbcrvilles. 

2 Le Roman Experimental. Compare Howells, quoted on p. 94. 


does not consist merely of the accurately colored picture 
of sea and strand and sailor and ship and sky. The 
whole story is informed with the spirit of the sea — its 
tang clings to the garments, its winds breathe through 
every passage, its wonderful lights and glooms tone the 
whole story. Without it the story would be a poor thing, 
bloodless and inert. 

Before taking up the elements of setting, it will be well 
to examine the literary means by which it is effected. 



Rhetoricians recognize, and it is their function to dis- 
cuss, at least four forms of discourse : Description, Nar- 
ration, Exposition, and Argumentation. 

This book is not a system of rhetoric ; 3 the rhetorical 
principles and usages it takes up are discussed solely with 
a view to throwing light upon the structure of the short- 
story. The fiction-writer has to do with all the forms 
of discourse, but especially with narration and descrip- 
tion. The principles and methods of narration, as ap- 
plied to the short-story, are distributed throughout this 
volume, as is evident; but description, as an element of 
setting, requires a few simple words. 

To describe is to picture. In talking of description 
we naturally speak of portraying, delineating, coloring, 

3 For the use of fiction writers, good general treatments of 
these subjects are to be found in English Composition, Barrett 
Wendell, and Talks^ on Writing English, Arlo Bates. An ex- 
cellent formal treatise is The Working Principles of Rhetoric, 


and all the devices of the picture painter. To describe 
is to visualize, hence we must look at description as a 
pictorial process, whether the writer deals with material, 
or with spiritual objects. 

If you were asked to describe a rapid-fire gun you 
might go about it in either of two ways : give a technical 
account of its appearance and nature, in whole and in 
detail, or else describe it as a terrible engine of slaugh- 
ter, dwelling upon its effects rather than upon its struc- 

With the former kind of description, which is really 
exposition — the precise setting forth of what a thing 
truly is — the short-story of to-day has but little to do. 
The form is too short to admit of the circumstantial ex- 
position which is permitted to the novel, but which was 
employed in short-stories now and then by Poe and Haw- 
thorne. True, minute expository description is occa- 
sionally needed in the short-story, and the observation 
which lies fundamental to all description must be close 
and painstaking; but it must be brief, for the important 
result to be attained is a vivid picture, an effect, an im- 
pression, of the person or thing described. These " little 
miracles of observation," to adopt Mr. Howells' clever- 
phrase, need not be dry and lifeless, but may give the 
meaning of things and subdue the details. Perhaps this 
may be abusing the distinguished realist's epithet, but 
at all events it expresses the method of the typical short- 
story to-day. Some details make an object different from 
others of its class, while other details identify it with its 
class. You must learn to decide when and how to use 


the one and reject the other. It is difficult to make this 
whole distinction clear, and, after all, nothing but train- 
ing, or experience, or your own common sense, can teach 
you that which is vital in a picture and that which is de- 

Again, this literary, this significant, this selective sort 
of description is of two kinds : that which has to do with 
the persons of the story, and that which deals with im- 
personal objects. Naturally, these two provinces are not 
always sharply separated, and here and there may in- 
timately overlap. The chapter on " Character and Char- 
acterization " takes up the former, while the latter we 
are now to. consider. However, most of the principles 
kid down for the one will apply also to the other. 

In so brief a literary form as the short-story 

i. Description Should be Mainly Suggestive 

It is only the trained observer who notes all the de- 
tails of a scene. Even familiar landscapes, houses, and 
rooms, usually leave upon us only general impressions; 
but take away one of the salient features and the scene 
at once strikes us as different, yet somehow the same; 
it may require a friend to tell us just what is missing, 
but a single feature lacking makes all the change. Now 
it is the picturing of the striking characteristics in a 
scene which constitutes suggestive description. Gray, in 
a letter to West, spoke of minute describing as " an ill 
habit that will wear off " ; and Disraeli said description 
was " always a bore both to the describer and the de- 


scribee " ; while Stevenson averred that " no human be- 
ing ever spoke of scenery for above two minutes at a 
time, which makes one suspect we hear too much of it 
in literature." 4 

To catalogue all the details is to weary the mind. How 
much better to bring out just those points which enable 
the reader to supply the rest. You have seen those in- 
genious black-and-white sketches which are " so simple " 
— until you undertake to do one from life. A few black 
strokes and the figure is complete. Not an outline, nor 
even actual likeness to the features which are suggested. 
Those marks are not really in the form of lips and eyes 
and nose, yet somehow the face stands out complete — 
memory, association, and imagination have filled in the 

Coleridge's { Ancient Mariner is full of this strongly 
sketched suggestion. Of the poet's method in this mas- 
terpiece, as contrasted with expository description, Low- 
ell says : 

" And how picturesque it is in the proper sense of the 
word. I know nothing like it. There is not a descrip- 
tion in it. It is all picture. Descriptive poets generally 
confuse us with multiplicity of detail; we cannot see 
their forest for the trees ; but Coleridge never errs in this 
way. With instinctive tact he touches the right chord 
of association, and is satisfied, as we also are." 5 

Note these suggestive lines about Avignon, from Dau- 
det's " The Pope's Mule " : " Ah ! the happy days ! the 

4 Quoted in How to Write a Novel, p. 67. 
B Prose works, Vol. VI, p. 74. 


happy city ! Halberds that did not wound, state prisons 
where they put wine to cool. No famine ; no wars." 

2. Brief Description May Be by Epithet 

" Ever-mindful," " blue-eyed," " white-armed," " laugh- 
ter-loving," are now conventional compounds, but fresh 
enough when Homer first conjoined them. The cen- 
turies have not yet improved upon " Wheels round, 
brazen, eight-spoked," or " Shields smooth, beautiful, 
brazen, well-hammered," 6 though they may be thought 
too heroic for ordinary prose. Observe the effective use 
of epithet in Will Levington Comfort's " The Fighting 

" That ' Come on, fellows ! ' changed the aspect of affairs in 
the minds of several of the men — a quick and business-like 
utterance. In it there was neither rank nor nerves, which are 
not needed in the Silang gorges. It pulled a cheer from the 
waiting van, leeched against the cliff; an instant later a raw, 
high-pitched yell and a drumming of guns came from the 
heights. Down the steep bank scrambled the little party, the 
Cumberer limping in the lead. Glawm's trick to occupy the at- 
tention of the rebels was pure logic. The Thirteenth had en- 
tered the impregnated zone. One was down. 

" Birdie turned, unfolded his command, lifted the fallen and 
chucked the body easily up the trail out of range, rejoining his 
men in a twinkling. The staff muttered acclaim. Down, down 
toward the little ribbon of river that boiled with wasted shots, 
trotted this plaything of the enemy." 7 

6 Talks on Writing English, Bates, p. 197. 

7 Lip pine it's, March, 1907. 


3. Description May Be by Simple Hint 

Lowell notes a happy instance of this sort of picturing 
by intimation when he says of Chaucer: 

" Sometimes he describes amply by the merest hint, as 
where the Friar, before setting himself down, drives 
away the cat. We know without need of more words 
that he has chosen the snuggest corner." 8 

4. Description May be Direct 

This statement is plain enough without exposition. 
Use your own judgment as to whether in picturing a 
given scene you had better proceed from a general view 
to the details, or first give the details and thus build up 
the general picture. In the short-story direct descrip- 
tion should be very brief indeed. 

5. Description May Depict a Thing by Its Effects 

" When the spectator's eye is dazzled, and he shades 
it, we form the idea of a splendid object; when his face 
turns pale, of a horrible one ; from his quick wonder and 
admiration we form the idea of great beauty; from his 
silent awe, of great majesty." 9 

6. Description Often Employs Figures of Speech 
(a) Simile: 

" Harrow-on-the-Hill, with its pointed spire, rises blue in the 
distance; and distant ridges, like the receding waves, rise into 

8 Quoted in Talks On Writing English. 

9 Mozley's Essays. 


blueness, one after the other, out of the low-lying mist; the last 
ridge bluely melting into space. In the midst of it all, gleams 
the Welsh Harp Lake, like a piece of sky that has become un- 
stuck and tumbled into the landscape with its shining side up." ie 

(b) Metaphor: 

" Before us lies a sea of fern, gone a russet-brown from 
decay, in which are isles of dark green gorse — " xl 

(c) Personification: 

u and little trees with scarlet and orange and lemon- 
colored leaflets fluttering down, and running after each other 
on the bright grass, under the brisk west wind which makes 
the willows rustle and turn up the whites of their leaves in 
pious resignation to the coming change." 12 

(d) Hyperbole: 

" ' Just, so,' said the notary, pulling out his watch, which was 
two inches thick and looked like a Dutch man-of-war." 13 

7. Description is Strongly Influenced by Point of View 

Any of three methods may be adopted: The single 
view-point may be maintained throughout the description, 
as though one would take his stand at the most advanta- 
geous point and describe only what could be seen from 
that single position. 

Or the view-point may shift progressively, as when the 
reader is being conducted along a highroad. 

10 Peter Ibbetson, Du Maurier. 



13 Quoted in Genung's Rhetoric, from Balzac. 


Or the view-point may remain stationary while the ob- 
ject moves, as when a vessel approaches the beholder. 

Oftener than not, description will make use of a num- 
ber of the foregoing methods instead of confining itself 
to any one type to delineate a given scene. 

8. The Seven Steps in Description 

In the chapters on " Gathering the Materials " and 
" Some Special Qualities of Style,"' consideration is 
given to each of these seven steps : OBSERVATION, 

All of these have to do with first collecting and then 
arranging the facts of the proposed setting for use in 
building up a description, however simply the scene 
is to be depicted. The last decade has intensified the 
discussion as to whether the novelist shall devote his 
power of faithful delineation to studies in local color, as 
Mary Wilkins Freeman, or, like Balzac, choose a uni- 
versal scope. This argument does not directly affect 
the short-story writer, and may be dismissed with the 
remark that to what " school " soever an author may in- 
cline he will find ample use for his ability to grasp the 
essentials of a scene. 

Later usage has developed more and more the spirit 
of historical and physical accuracy in the writer's at- 
tempt to describe setting. This tends toward realism, 
and as this spirit grows we may expect to see romance 
and imagination increasingly subordinated. Even now 


little really imaginative fiction is being produced ; instead, 
we see much fine work in accurate delineation. The same 
careful study of historical periods, costuming and local 
color, which makes the stage so pictorial and the painter 
so faithful in his portrayals, has inspired the writer of 
short-stories. But be on your guard lest you lose the 
spirit of the story in what Frank Norris used to call its 
" clothes," and so turn a virtue into a folly. 


As we now consider the four elements of setting — 
Time, Place, Occupations and Conditions — remember 
that two or more of these will produce what is loosely 
called background; that is, that part of the setting which 
is introduced for the purpose of " bringing out " the 
characters, whether by means of harmony or of contrast. 
It is this background, bold or obscure, clear-cut or subtly 
suggested, that is so potent to charm the reader when it 
is worked in with a deft and well-considered touch. No 
other phase of the story-teller's art is so alluring and 
fascinating as that which causes the characters to play in 
activity, or reveal their intricate yet sharply defined mo- 
tives, upon the chosen background. Here is the fairest 
field for observation. You remember that Flaubert coun- 
seled his pupil Maupassant to look at an object until he 
saw in it all that every one else saw, and then continue 
to look until he saw what no one else saw. This applies 
not only to analytical observation but to constructive ob- 
servation as well. 


Lessing inquires : " How do we obtain a clear idea 
of a thing in space ? First we observe its separate parts, 
then the union of these parts, and finally the whole. Our 
senses perform these various operations with such amaz- 
ing rapidity as to make them seem but one. This ra- 
pidity is absolutely essential to our obtaining an idea of 
the whole, which is nothing more than the result of the 
conception of the parts and of their connection with each 
other." 14 

So we must regard each of these elements as only a 
part of the greater fact — the entire setting. 

I. Time 

Here we have an idea broad and effective, more or less 
openly influencing every story. The author may flatly 
announce the two elements of time — the period of his 
story, and its duration; or he may ignore both; or he 
may merely suggest these conditions ; or he may gradu- 
ally make both period and duration plain as the story pro- 

(a) The general period will be future, present-day, or 
/past. The whole range of history lies before you for 
choice, and woe to you if you set twentieth-century peo- 
ple to performing against a Roman background, in Greek 
costumes, while speaking in Medieval phrases! Choose 
no period that you do not know or cannot master, unless 
you do not fear the rejection slip. Even a year makes 
a revolutionary difference in setting when that year is 

14 Lao co on, p. 102. 


1534 in England, 1*861 in America, or 1870 in France. 
For another example, it is worth while, if your swash- 
bucklers engage in sword-play, to know in what period 
duellists held poniards in their left hands, and in what 
period cloaks. Mannerisms of speech, of dress, of sport, 
of gaming — a whole world of detail — rest upon time 
in the setting, for time influences place, occupation, and 

(b) Season, too, must not be forgotten, with its 
pageantry of color and its peculiar chain of limitations. 
Either keep birds and flowers out of your picture or have 
them sing and bloom in season. Do not be a " nature 
faker " in fiction. 

(c) Day and night offer pitfalls for the unwary. 
Goethe once complained that in describing Ivanhoe's en- 
trance into Cedric's great dining hall, Scott was too mi- 
nute in recording details, for he showed even Ivanhoe's 
shoes, which could not really be noticed by night in the 
gloom of that vast apartment. " If Sidney Lanier 15 had 
ever noted carefully the time setting of the climax in 
Silas Marner, he could not have written of ' a ray of 
sunshine striking through the window and illuminating 
the little one's head.' " 16 

What simplicity and sublimity mingle in the setting 
established by the opening lines of Tappan's exquisite 
hymn, in which spirit and background harmonize so per- 
fectly : 

15 Tht English Novel, p. 28. 

16 The Study of a Novel, Whitcomb, p. 78. 


Tis midnight ; and on Olive's brow 
The star is dimmed that lately shone : 

Tis midnight; in the garden, now, 
The suffering Saviour prays alone. 

(d) Duration of time is not less important, though 
less prominent, than period. Many an unwary author 
has slipped on the simple matter of forgetting that it 
takes time to travel here, there, and back again; that 
people normally grow older with the lapse of years ; and 
that events must be consistent with the procession of the 
seasons. Even the many-eyed proofreader overlooks 
some glaring inconsistencies of time duration in stories. 
In " Ouida's " idyllic pastoral, " A Leaf in the Storm," 17 
Reine Altix is in her ninety-third year before her grand- 
son Bernadou proposes to Margot, and the aged dame is 
still ninety-three after Bernadou is accepted, is married, 
and has become the father of a boy then more than a 
year old! 

2. Place 

Since Julius Caesar has reminded us that certain tribes 
" differ among themselves in languages, customs, and 
laws," we must observe how important a part place plays 
in the setting. The author may propose to locate his 
story " nowhere in particular " — and then that is what 
his setting will resemble. Not that he need announce the 
name of country, section, and town, but he himself must 
know it, or mentally construct it, and be faithful to its 

17 See p. 377, No. 20. 


local color. How many stories come to the manuscript- 
reader's desk (they seldom reach the editor-in-chief) the 
settings of which bring to mind Artemus Ward's naive 
confession as to one of the figures on his panorama : " I 
can conceal it from you no longer — it is a horse ! " 
Their Parisians should be labeled, for their surround- 
ings might equally well be those of Berlin or of Peters- 
burg. A cowboy must be such in more than name to 
be convincing. Paolo Veronese dressed the people in 
his painting The Marriage at Cana, in the clothes of his 
day. It was a tour de force, and what did he gain? 

Local color cannot be dreamed out. If you have not 
visited and studied the locality of which you write, at 
least consult a book or a friend^ and even then you are 
liable to go wrong. No African traveler would ever rec- 
ognize the background of Johnson's Rasselas. 

A meritorious instance in point is found in the follow- 
ing introduction to Harold MacGrath's novelette, The 
Princess Elopes. The atmosphere, the names, the cus- 
toms, the color, are all German, yet the grand-duchy and 
the principality are imaginary. The setting conforms 
not to unchecked imagination but to the imagined reality. 

It is rather difficult in these days for a man who takes such 
scant interest in foreign affairs — trust a whilom diplomat for 
that! — to follow the continual geographical disturbances of 
European surfaces. Thus, I cannot distinctly recall the exact 
location of the Grand Duchy of Barscheit, or of the neighboring 
principality of Doppelkinn. It meets my needs and purposes 
however, to say that Berlin and Vienna were easily accessible, 
and that a three hours' journey would bring you under the 
shadow of the Carpathian Range, where, in my diplomatic days, 
I used often hunt the "bear that walks like a man." 


Manifestly, it is much easier to write of a specific 
locality than of a general place — if there be such a 
thing. For example, set your scene in North America ; 
now contract the setting to the United States, to the 
East, to Pennsylvania, to eastern Pennsylvania, to the an- 
thracite coal regions, to Pittston, to the foreign quarter — 
and as you narrow down the place your pictures in- 
crease in vividness and in suggestiveness both to you and 
to your reader. 

In passing, let me say that the same idea applies to the 
use of specific words for painting in the local color of 
a community. Which of these two pictures is the 
clearer ? " The man was lying on a rock near the large 
frame house ;" " The gardener sprawled on a granite 
boulder a few yards to the left of the rambling, clap- 
boarded house " ? Generality in the former sentence has 
been individualized in the latter. Local color demands 
precise words. Not that description is a matter of mere 
words. It is not. It consists rather of calling things 
by their most precise and simple names, and noting their 
individualities, that they may be distinguished from all 
generally similar objects. It is not words, primarily, but 
ideas with words exactly fitted to them, that make delin- 
eation vivid. 

Once or twice I have used here an expression which 
is current among those who speak and write of fiction 
— " local color." What does it connote in the language 
of criticism? 

Mr. James Lane Allen says: 


"A friend of mine — a painter — had just finished 
reading some little thing that I had succeeded in having 
published in the Century. ' What do you think of it?' 
I asked him. * Tell me frankly what you like and what 
you don't like/ 

" ' It's interestingly told, dramatic, polished, and all 
that, Allen,' was his reply, ' but why in the world did you 
neglect such an opportunity to drop in some color here, 
and at this point, and there ? ' 

" It came over me like that," said the Kentuckian, 
snapping his fingers, " that words indicating colors can 
be manipulated by the writer just as pigments are by 
the painter. I never forgot the lesson. And now when 
I describe a landscape, or a house, or a costume, I try 
to put it in such words that an artist can paint the scene 
from my words." 18 

This is local color. 19 

Local color must be presented pervasively, not in 
chunks. It must touch everything in the story that would 
naturally be influenced by local conditions — language, 
customs, costumes, and all the rest, and it must keep on 
coloring them, never for a moment allowing the people 
to speak out of " character," act out of consistency, or 
break away from the requisite environment. 

In " Ouida's " " A Leaf in the Storm," the author 
gives the local setting thus progressively. The picture 
of the quaint Normandy village, Berceau de Dieu, grows 

18 Steps in Journalism, Shuman, p. 201. 

19 In The Art of Writing Fiction, p. 40, Mr. S. Baring Gould 
is quoted as giving similar testimony. 


clearer as the story moves on. It is nearly half told 
when we see Reine Allix — 

" A tall and strong woman, very withered and very bent and 
very brown, yet with sweet, dark, flashing eyes that had still 
light (sic) in them, and a face that was still noble, though 
nearly a century had bronzed it with its harvest suns and blown 
on it with its wintry winds " [sitting at night by her win- 
dow in the roof and meditating on the wedding of her grand- 
son Bernadou, just accomplished.] " From her lattice in the 
eaves she saw straight up the village street; saw the dwellings 
of her lifelong neighbors, the slopes of the rich fields, the gleam 
of the broad, gray water, the whiteness of the ' crucifix against 
the darkened skies." 

The ability to reproduce the temper and tone of a wide 
locality has built up a school of present-day writers 
whose very names suggest to the magazine reader their 
chosen sections. Will N. Harben has spoken for north- 
ern Georgia, " Charles Egbert Craddock " for the Ten- 
nessee mountains, Hamlin Garland for the northwestern 
farm-country, Mary Wilkins Freeman for humble life 
in New England, James Lane Allen for Kentucky, Elsie 
Singmaster for the Pennsylvania Germans, George W. 
Cable for Louisiana, Thomas Nelson Page for Virginia, 
and — not to extend further a list to which many other 
excellent names at home and abroad might be added of 
those whose work rivals the best — each of these has 
found in his characteristic local conditions an appealing 
quality that has enriched the American short-story. 

A useful device for helping the author to visualize his 
locale is to prepare a topographical map of the entire 
physical setting, something after the fashion of the au- 


thors of Treasure Island, The Forest Lovers, and Quincy 
Adams Sawyer. Not all writers would wish to publish 
the map, but an exact sketch would at least help to keep 
the movements of the characters in the place consistent 
and realistic. 

3. Occupations 

The setting not only influences the characters in what 
they are, but in what they do. Contrariwise, what the 
characters are doing in a story will govern the setting. 
The two must be consistent. A football game argues the 
" gridiron," with eleven men on each team and not nine, 
as a writer had it in a recent story. A whole vocabulary 
of technical terms must be at the pen's point — terms of 
business, of sport, of social life, and of endless other spe- 
cial occupations — in order to a faithful presentment of 
local color. I know of no fault so prevalent, and so 
hopeless, as the efforts of the tyro to describe occupa- 
tions with which he has not made himself familiar. 

4. Conditions 

I have said that this is not a satisfactory word. No 
more is " environments." By it I mean all the condi- 
tions — morale mental, spiritual, emotional, physical, so- 
cial — all the conditions which are conceived of by the 
author as limiting the actors in their working out of the 
story. Some have called it the " mood " of the story, 
but it is something more than mood. And these sur- 
rounding, all-pervading, penetrating conditions must be 


so sketched in that the reader may be able to measure all 
the handicaps which work for and against the characters 
before they start, and while they are doing or becoming. 
When " place " and " conditions " are handled carefully 
together some fine harmonies and contrasts result. The 
gloomy setting prepares for the catastrophe, as in Poe's 
" The Fall of the House of Usher ; " or the calm after 
the storm fits in with the mood of self-renunciation after 
years of struggle. In The Last Days of Pompeii the 
eruption of Vesuvius is in harmony with the mood of the 
story, as is the case with the burning of Rome in Quo 
Vadis, its weaker successor. See the perfect concord of 
mood and setting in this passage from James Lane Al- 
len's The Choir Invisible : 

The next morning the parson, standing a white cold shep- 
herd before his chilly wilderness flock, preached a sermon from 
the text : " I shall go softly all my years." While the heads of 
the rest were bowed during the last moments of prayer, she 
rose and slipped out. " Yes," she said to herself, gathering her 
veil closely about her face as she alighted at the door of her 
house and the withered leaves of November were whirled 
fiercely about her feet, " I shall go softly all my years." 

But the conditions may strongly contrast with the 
mood of the action. To quote again from " Ouida's " 
" A Leaf in the Storm " : 

One evening in this gracious and golden time the people sat 
out as usual when the day was done, talking from door to door, 
the old women knitting or spinning, the younger ones mending 
their husbands' or brothers' blouses or the little blue shirts of 
their infants, the children playing with the dogs on the sward 
that edged the stones of the street, and above all the great calm 
heavens and 1 the glow of the sun that had set. 


Reine Allix, like the others, sat before the door, for once 
doing nothing, but with folded hands and bended head dreamily 
taking pleasure in the coolness that had come with evening — 

Suddenly there came along the road between the trees an old 
man and a mule; it was Mathurin the miller — He paused be- 
fore the cottage of Reine Allix ; he was dusty, travel-stained, 
and sad. Margot ceased laughing among her flowers as she 
saw her old master. None of them knew why, yet the sight of 
him made the air seem cold and the night seem near. 

"There is terrible news," he said, drawing a sheet of printed 
words from his coat-pocket — "terrible news! We are to go to 

5. The Setting Entire 

In the ardent effort to secure individual effects, do not 
overlook the unity of the whole setting. Keep ever in 
mind Poe's dictum regarding unity of impression. Let 
the setting constitute a complete scene, a unified picture, 
clean-cut or hazy, as you please, but nevertheless as ef- 
fectively set forth as are " good deeds in a naughty 
world." Setting, in proper harmony or contrast with the 
plot, will produce convincing work. Then the charac- 
ters will march toward their destinies with an air of fit- 
ness as admirable as it is rare. The storm breaks when 
the hero's moral tension is at its height. The grisly night 
prompts the trembling weakling to forswear his evil pur- 
poses. The breaking clouds seem to clear up the doubts 
of the beleaguered soul. Does not all the environment 
goad Macbeth steadily on to his crime and its doom, 
just as her surroundings happily conduct Portia to her 
joy? Hawthorne hedges Donatello about with a setting 
— conditions past and present — which makes his crime 
inevitable, and all his after life shares in the same tragic 


sequence. The skilful dramatist shows the soul in its 
hour of crisis poised ready for either course. And all 
the circumstance of music and form and color and air 
and word combine to move the will to its resolve. Then, 
when once that resolve is taken, and the deed is accom- 
plished, the setting falls quietly into its new grooves to 
fit the man in his new mood. 



1. Should be Mainly Suggestive 

2. May be by Epithet 

3. May be by Simple Hint 

4. May be Direct 

5. May Depict a Thing by Its Effects 

6. Often Employs Figures of Speech 

7. Is Strongly Influenced by Point of View 

8. Seven Steps in Description 


1. Time 

(a) General Period 

(b) Season 

(c) Day and Night 

(d) Duration 

2. Place 

Local Color 

3. Occupations 

4. Conditions 

5. The Setting Entire 



1. Select from any sources short-stories whose settings are 
established by (a) direct description, (b) suggestion, (c) epi- 
thet, (d) hint, (e) figures of speech. 

2. Rewrite the opening setting of one of your old stories 
from one of these points of view: (a) a distant point, (b) the 
centre of the scene, (c) a fixed point while the objects move. 

3. Which one of the " seven steps in description " seems to 
you to be most important? Which next? 

4. In about two hundred words write the opening setting of a 
story set (a) in any previous century whose history you have 
recently studied; (b) in the present; (c) in the future. 

5. Describe a night scene (a) at a fire; (b) on the ocean; 
(c) during a riot; (d) at a college dance; (e) at a secret 
"spread"; (f) after an athletic victory; (g) in a graveyard; 
(h) in the desert. 

6. Write the opening setting of a local-color story set near 
your own home. 

7. Outline a setting showing an occupation with which you 
are familiar, as some branch of manufacture, commerce, mining, 
or farming. 

8. Outline settings that will (a) harmonize, (b) contrast, 
with the characters. 

9. Construct a plot in which setting influences the destinies 
of the characters. 

10. Select from Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles passages in 
which nature sympathizes with the action of the story and the 
moods of the characters. 

11. Briefly describe, or suggestively present the picture of, (a) 
a city street-crossing in winter; (b) the entrance to a place 
of amusement; (c) a police court; (d) a country fair; (e) a 
rain-storm in a lonely village. 

12. Vary the foregoing by assuming successively (in as many 
cases as may be assigned) the view-point of a tramp, a cynical 
old man, a boy, a comical foreigner, an unlucky man, etc. 

13. Outline a scene and suggest an incident in surprising con- 
trast to the atmosphere. 

14. Suggest an incident in harmony with the same scene. 



We accomplish less by rule than by observation and imita- 
tion. — Cramer, Talks to Students on The Art of Study. 

. . . the one rule is to be infinitely various; to interest, 
to disappoint, to surprise, and yet still to gratify; to be ever 
changing, as it were, the stitch, and yet still to give the effect 
of an ingenious neatness. — Stevenson, On Some Technical Ele- 
ments of Style in Literature. 

From this chapter heading let no one infer that all, or 
even most, good short-stories exhibit clearly marked di- 
visions of introduction, body, and conclusion. Quite on 
the contrary, so free is the form that all sorts of material 
may now and then be found in all sorts of places in the 
story. However, the body, or the story proper, is the 
natural place to look for the essential elements of the 
story — the really characteristic things which make a 
story individual. So, too, in general, the body of the 
story will display the qualities which go to make the 
short-story a distinct literary species — though no one 
story is likely to contain them all in a perfect degree. 
The body of the story, then, is what we wait for, with 
it the true plot begins and ends, whether the writer pre- 
faces some explanatory words or whether he plunges 
into his yarn without introduction. 



Just about every element of prose composition, as ex- 
pounded by rhetoricians, may be found in the short-story. 
To some of them I have already referred, especially in 
the chapters on " Plot," " Introduction," and " Setting," 
while to others I shall advert in succeeding sections. 
There are, however, seven points which particularly bear 
upon the body of the story, as containing the plot and 
much of the setting: Incident, Emotion, Crisis, Sus- 
pense, Climax, Denouement, and Conclusion. 1 

I. Incident 

It must be reiterated that the short-story differs from 
the sketch essentially in that it " cannot consist simply 
of a fixed picture, a description of a man in repose. It 
must show him acting and acted upon. . . . The 
man can only move as he is swayed internally by his emo- 
tions; and the movement can only be seen externally in 
its effect on his surroundings, his background." 2 

Not everyone will go the full length with Stevenson 
in subordinating characters to incident, but few will dis- 

l |t will be observed that nowhere in this treatise have I 
attempted to name in order all the essential parts of the short- 
story. In The Technique of the Novel Dr. Home regards the 
essentials of that literary form as being: Plot, Motive (pur- 
pose) and Verisimilitude, Character-Study, Emotional Excite- 
ment, Background, and Style.^ It has not seemed wise to treat 
the short-story under so rigid a classification, for the reason 
that some of the subordinate elements — Dialogue, for example — 
may touch all the parts with equal intimacy: while Emotion 
may show itself in every phase of the story. The truth is, too 
close an analysis may cause us to lose sight of the delicate blend- 
ing of the parts of the story. Its characteristics often pervade 
the whole rather than stand out as entities. 

2 The Technique of the Novel, Home, p. 23. 


pute the dictum that in the short-story the interest be- 
comes attenuated when we are fed upon mere character- 
analysis without illustration by incident of how the char- 
acters work out their inner spirit. But Stevenson may 
speak for himself: 

" In character-studies the pleasure we take is critical ; 
we watch, we approve, we smile at incongruities, we are 
moved to sudden heats of sympathy with courage, suf- 
fering, or virtue. But the characters are still them- 
selves, they are not us; the more clearly they are de- 
picted, the more widely do they stand away from us, the 
more imperiously do they thrust us back into our place 
as a spectator. . . . It is not character but incident 
that woos us out of our reserve. Something happens as 
we desire it to happen to ourselves ; some situation, that 
we have long dallied with in fancy, is realized in the story 
with enticing and appropriate details. Then we forget 
the characters; then we push the hero aside; then we 
plunge into the tale in our own person and bathe in fresh 
experience; and then, and then only, do we say that we 
have been reading a romance." 3 

The extreme realists demand, in the words of Paul 
Bourget, " mediocrity of heroes, systematic diminution of 
plot, and almost total suppression of dramatic action." 4 
In the following quotation substitute " short-story " for 
" novel," and you have the golden middle ground. 

3 A Gossip on Romance. 
*Le Roman Experimental, 


" The sacrifice of action to some extent to psychologi- 
cal evolution in modern fiction may be an advance in 
the art as an intellectual entertainment, if the writer does 
not make that evolution his end, and does not forget that 
the indispensable thing in a novel is the story. The 
novel of mere adventure or mere plot, it need not be 
urged, is of a lower order than that in which the evolu- 
tion of the characters and their interaction make the 
story. The highest fiction is that which embodies both; 
that is, the story in which action is the result of mental 
and spiritual forces in play." 5 

However the balance may tilt between pure character- 
interest and incident, one thing is sure: in the typical 
short-story — let it be repeated — something happens. 
The sketch is content with mere pictures of static life, 
but the short-story is dynamic. These dynamic happen- 
ings we call incidents. 

The whole of the story may comprise just a single 
incident, or a main incident may be fed and built up by 
one or more minor incidents, related vitally to the for- 
ward movement of the plot. In " The Reformation of 
Calliope " 6 the main incident is the mistake of Calliope's 
mother in thinking that he is city marshal. The con- 
tributory incident is Calliope's fight with the real city 
marshal. The resulting incident is Calliope's masquerade 
as marshal. These are all essential to the plot. 

But not all incidents in the average short-story are of 

*Modertu Fiction, Charles Dudley Warner. 
6 See p. 73. 


equal value to the plot. Here are some discriminating 
words from Charity Dye on this point. 7 

" In a well-appointed story, not only must everything 
that happens seem to grow naturally out of the situa- 
tion, but it must seem to be the only thing that could 
happen under the circumstances. This gives rise to the 
classification of incidents, according to their importance, 
into plot incident proper and developing incidents, each 
having an especial office of its own. The author knows 
his plot before he writes, but he frequently improvises 
means for its unfolding as the lines flow from his pen. 
These means for unfolding are called developing inci- 

But some developing incidents serve rather as illustra- 
tions than as indispensable elements of the plot. It is 
easy to recall a simple example. In Maupassant's 
" Moonlight " 8 the entire situation is this : A woman- 
hating abbe has always warned his niece against earthly 
love; but coming upon her one moonlight night with 
her lover, he suddenly concludes that " Perhaps God has 
made such nights, in order to throw a veil of idealism 
over the loves of men." Now, to show how remarkable 
was this complete reversal of sentiment, the author must 
first picture the abbe's bitter scorn of womanhood. " He 
would shake his cassock when he went out of the door 
of the convent, and would stride swiftly away as if he 

7 The Story-Teller's Art, p. 34, 

8 See p. 376, No. 10. 


were flying from some danger." This is merely a de- 
veloping incident. Another equally expressive action 
might have been chosen without in the slightest degree 
affecting the plot. But when the time comes for the 
author to prepare the reader for the change about to be 
wrought in the austere priest, the ascetic is looking out 
into his garden, " profoundly moved by the grand yet 
tranquil beauty of the pallid night. 

" In his little garden, bathed with soft light, his fruit- 
trees, set in rows, cast the shadow of their slender limbs, 
scarce clothed with verdure, on the gravelled paths; 
while the giant honey-suckle clinging to the wall of his 
house exhaled a fragrant, as it were a sweetened breath, 
so that a sort of perfumed soul seemed to hover about in 
the warm, clear evening. 

" He began to breathe deep, drinking the air as drunk- 
ards drink their wine and he walked slowly, enchanted, 
wonder-struck, his niece almost forgotten." 

This is a vital plot incident. We can feel the crisis 
approaching. Change this materially and you have 
changed the entire story. All that follows is built upon 
the one formative incident — the moonlight has wrought 
its magic in the priest. Thus, plot-incidents are essential 
to the plot; developing — or contributory — incidents 
may be either essential or nonessential, but must always 
be secondary in importance to plot-incidents. 

So all sorts of problems arise with the handling of 
happenings in the story. The writer is tempted to in- 


sert an incident that peculiarly pleases him, even though 
it does not contribute to the progress of the plot either 
vitally or by illustration. He had better cut it out, 
though I confess that imperfections of this irrelevant sort 
constitute about all the charm some stories possess. The 
real remedy would be to build a new story with the at- 
tractive though irrelevant incident as a plot-germ. 

Again, the writer may be tempted to elaborate an in- 
teresting developing incident and allow it to overshadow 
the plot incidents — a fatal mistake. A word here is 

It is not profitable to split hairs as to whether develop- 
ing or contributory incidents, when closely related to 
the main happening, are not simply phases of the one 
real incident. Certainly this is often the case, but the 
great question is how to keep the plot full of life and 
yet not overburden it with incident. We have all lost 
our breath attempting to follow the lively actions of an 
indefatigable character who keeps busy enough in a story 
of five thousand words to fit out a yarn of sixty thousand, 
while perhaps the very next story taken up consumes 
ten thousand words in developing a single microscopic 
happening that should have had few words — or none — - 
devoted to its telling. 

Naturally, the nature of the story will control the 
amount of incident that may be introduced. The theme 
of adventurous action, at the one extreme, and the 
study of character, at the other, are far apart. Even in 
the latter kind the writer may elect to reveal character 
by conduct, and not chiefly by dialogue and exposition, 


so that plenty of incident need not stand for lively action ; 
though usually it does. 

To be convincing an incident must have verisimilitude 
— a big word with much in it. 9 To seem true a thing 
need not be true, but it must be of such a sort as would 
naturally cause the result, or flow as a result from a 
previous cause. 10 Here- again I must emphasize the im- 
portance of intelligent observation. In describing how 
a man got out of a London four-wheeler Mr. Zangwill 
did not take into account that there are no handles on 
the insides of the doors. Another writer might have 
noted this slight point and yet missed a much more im- 
portant matter. The value of observation depends upon 
the observer, and not merely upon the length of time a 
thing may be observed. An owl has been known to stare 
fixedly at an object for a long time without at all im- 
proving his owlish mind, and a man once patiently ob- 
served a great orchestra with the sole result of a 
wondering admiration for " the coincidence of the fid- 
dlers' elbows." Do better than that, and make your 
incidents convincingly faithful to reality and yet full 
of fancy. 

A word of warning is needed here. In seeking to 
make incident seem real do not make the mistake 1X of 
attempting to be too exact. You are not writing a 
scientific treatise, but fiction, and short fiction at that. 

9 See chapter on Fact in Fiction, 

10 " Our art is occupied, and bound to be occupied, not so 
much in making stories true as in making them typical."— 
Stevenson, A Humble Remonstrance. 

11 Referred to in chapter on Fact in Fiction, 


When Darwin wanted to decide which of two plants pro- 
duced the more seed he was not certain of his ground 
until he had counted twenty thousand seeds. Such meth- 
ods would kill all healthy inspiration if applied to fiction- 
writing. Better have it said of you, as Frank Norris 
said (not too exactly) of Scott, that though his 
archaeology was about a thousand years " out," he had 
made his characters and incidents live. 

2. Emotion 

Emotion is a broad word loosely used to embrace aft 
the tones of inner feeling, from the palest sentiment de- 
picted by a Jane Austen, to the darkest passion of a 
Werther. In a widely inclusive sense I use the term 

As do kindred literary forms, the short-story offers 
room for the play of every type and degree of emotional 
excitement, but any attempt at an exhaustive systemiza- 
tion and exposition of these varied forms would be out 
of place in this treatise. 12 It will be enough to call at- 
tention to two general groupings, and then glance at 
those emotions which are oftenest made the themes of 

An old grouping of the emotions considers them as 
those affording pleasure, those of unpleasant effect, and 
those of neutral character. 

12 There is an elaborate chapter on emotion in Albright's The 
Short-Story; Genung's Working Principles of Rhetoric fully 
discusses the rhetorical uses of emotion ; all standard text-books 
of psychology discuss the emotions. Gordy's New Psychology 
is especially good. 


A second classification recognizes the emotions as be- 
ing benevolent, malevolent, and variable — that is, benev- 
olent, malevolent, or neutral, according to circumstances. 

What is known as the James-Lange theory regards 
emotion as a complex of bodily sensations — that is, 
arising from bodily feelings and appetites. 

The emotions which commonly dominate whole stories, 
as well as play only here and there in fiction of a less 
emotional character, are love, anger, jealousy, ambition, 
fear, revenge, remorse, pathos and mirth. It will be 
seen that these are very broadly considered as embracing 
their subordinate forms. Of course the classification is 

Professor Francis Hovey Stoddard has said: 

" A novel is a record of emotion ; the story of a human 
life touched with emotion ; the story of two human lives 
under stress of emotional arousement; the story of do- 
mestic life with emotion pervading it; the story of a 
great historical character in his day of aroused emo- 
tional activity; or the story of the romantic adventures 
of some person in whom we are forced by the author to 
take an interest. So that the novel of personal life is 
really the basal form of the novel, and one may say that 
all novels become novels only when each is the story of 
some life stirred by some emotion." 13 Again he says : 
" A novel is a narrative of human life under stress of 
emotion," 14 And still again : ". . . the novel has 

13 The Evolution of the Novel, p. 9. 
14: Ibid., p. 26. 


made its way in a large measure by an assertion of the 
superiority of that which is apparently a weaker and 
lesser part of life, namely, emotion. For the novel does 
not stand in literary history as a record of achievement. 
It stands as a record of emotion." 15 

Now all this is very full, very explicit, and, some will 
say, very extreme. But in truth nearly every word 
might also be spoken of the short-story. The big thing 
— at once the basic and the climacteric thing — in the 
short-story is human interest, and there can be no sus- 
tained human interest without emotion. The whole crea- 
tion is a field for its display, and since fiction assumes to 
be a microcosm, fiction, short and long, must deal in- 
timately with emotion, from its gentler to its extreme 

Looking again at the group of emotional forces which 
often dominate whole short-stories, we must observe the 
singular preponderance of unpleasant and even malevo- 
lent inner feelings. But this is not to say that the ma- 
jority, or even any large percentage, of short-stories deal 
with malevolent and unpleasant emotions. Indeed, I 
affirm quite the contrary. Love, pathos and mirth, are 
the three whose faces are pretty sure to be seen peering 
forth from one character or another in nearly every story. 
The malevolent is treated only now and then — and 
printed when the editor feels particularly brave to with- 
stand the senseless clamor for merely the pleasant in 
short-story themes. In one of his novels Balzac has 

15 Ibid., p. 200. 


thrown a vivid light on the deadness of that fiction which 
knows no emotion — even troublous emotion. " Happi- 
ness," he says, " has no history, and the story-tellers of 
all lands have understood this so well that the words, 
' They were happy,' are the end of every love tale." 16 

(a) Love interest is of incalculable value to the short- 
story, if handled with delicacy, naturalness, and fidelity to 
truth. Its scope is life-wide. Often through no other 
medium than the affections may the nature and develop- 
ment of character be so adequately comprehended. The 
touch of love moves every other emotion — with a force 
that uplifts or debases. 

The hackneyed, vulgar, prurient and bestial treatment 
of love and the passions in the short-story cannot be too 
strongly condemned, particularly when found in a period- 
ical for home circulation. Surely the sincere story-writer 
must feel a sense of his responsibility and avoid the cheap 
sentimentalism which, in spite of its undeserved popu- 
larity, is as ephemeral as it is inartistic. " All forms of 
sentimentalism in literature," says Winchester, " result 
from the endeavor to excite the emotions of pathos or 
affection without adequate cause. Emotions thus easily 
aroused or consciously indulged for their own sake, have 
something hollow about them. The emotion excited by 
the true artist is grounded upon the deep truths of hu- 
man life." 17 

Balzac, who was the first master to subject the ex- 
pression of emotional excitement to the facts of life, 

16 Esther Happy, p. 70. 

17 Principles of Literary Criticism. 


speaks, in Pere Goriot, of " the transforming power of 
an overmastering emotion," and adds : " Sometimes the 
dullest spirit, under the stimulus of passion, reaches to 
such eloquence of thought if not of tongue that it seems 
to breathe in a celestial ether." 18 

The difference between pure sentiment and fustian 
sentimentality must be sensed by the writer, as it is 
by the sensitive reader. It is one thing for a writer to 
understand the psychology of emotion, it is quite another 
for him to possess a rich emotional nature. The latter 
more than the former will be his safe guide in dealing 
with this subtle element. I wish I could write this in 
letters a foot high. 

The self-respecting author will want to tell the truth 
about love, particularly where it arouses other emotions, 
and he will claim the right to deal frankly with its great 
facts and problems, but he will also scorn to poison young 
minds with distorted or with inflaming pictures of these 
great life-forces. Whatever men may hold as to the 
novel, the short-story must be pure in spirit; and pure 
it may be, even when frankest in tone. 

O Realism, what infamies have been published in thy 
name ! , 

(b) Pathos, in its essence, begins in a feeling of loss, 
of lack, of sacrifice, of coming short. It may end any- 
where. It is as wide as human need and human tender- 
ness. Poe has said that even " The tone of Beauty is 

18 Quoted in The Technique of the Novel, Home, p. 189. 


" Mrs. Birkin's Bonnet " 19 is simply the story of a 
plain old woman who keenly wished for a new bonnet 
for the wedding of a young friend. After hesitating 
long she decides to buy a particularly handsome one at 
a reduced price, but foregoes the joy for the sake of 
giving a new suit to a lad who could not otherwise 
attend the wedding. She fixes up her old headgear and 
is rewarded in this manner: 

As the bride reached Mr. Birkin's pew she stopped, slipped 
her hand from the bridegroom's arm, and turning flung both 
her own, bouquet and all, round Mrs. Birkin's neck. She kissed 
the old woman before the whole church and whispered loudly 
in her ear : " Mrs. Birkin, dear, that's the most beautiful bonnet 
I ever saw." 

In another moment she was gone. The last pair of brides- 
maids had passed, and after them, visitors and villagers alike 
thronged into the sunshine. Mrs. Birkin, her bonnet much awry, 
owing to the heavy bridal bouquet, strayed out with the rest in a 
sort of solemn rapture. She had been honored above all other 
women on that great day. 

" Wot did 'er say to you ? " asked Mrs. Comley, enviously, 
when they got outside. 

Mrs. Birkin laughed. " Bless 'er sweet face ! " she exclaimed 
triumphantly, "if her didn't go and think 't was a bran' new 
bonnet. I must 'a' made un over-smartish, that I must ! " 

A different type of pathos is that of " The Fire Re- 
kindled." 20 On Memorial Day Adam Roth looked over 
the old zouave uniform of his dead brother Dan, and 
confessed himself a coward. 

He had seen his brother volunteer, imbued with the spirit 
that creates heroes, but he himself had felt the black hand of 

19 L. Allen Harker, Century, Aug., 1008. 

20 Claire Wallace Flynn, Lippincotfs, June, 1907 


fear clutch his heart and strike at the very roots of his life. 
What use to fight against that name of ' coward ' ! In truth, he 
had not fought; he had let it sweep over him, engulf him, ruin 

Again the rat-a-tat of the drums. The man on the bed lifted 
his head. Oh, to feel just once Dan's simple love for his flag, 
the glow of patriotism, the thrill of war that trembled a faint, 
hallowed echo on this day! To feel, if such were possible, all 
these things that had been denied him in his youth — just to 
feel them once before he too went to that dim place where the 
Stars and Stripes and all the other banners of the world are 
furled in everlasting peace ! 

Old and feeble, he donned his brother's uniform and 
marched with the veterans, experiencing all the thrill and 
ardor and love-of-flag that Dan had known. He felt 
himself to be a defender of his country's honor. 

The ceremonies were drawing to a close. The silent heroes 
in blue and gray had had their measure of praise meted out to 
them, when a bugler stepped forward and played the first bar 
of the " Star Spangled Banner." There was a shout, a sudden 
concerted movement of the crowd to get a little nearer the 
bugler, as the long notes rang out. From his higher place Adam 
saw the man whom he had been watching push his way to the 
edge of the crowd, directly facing the flag. His face was darker 
than ever, with an immeasurable hatred. He sneered as he 
looked at the Zouaves standing gaunt and rugged about the 
great monument that had been raised to the memory of their 
brothers. The people were singing now. The man laughed. 
Above the voice of palpitating youth and earnest age Adam 
heard it, and clenched his hand at his side. What did this man 
mean to do? Such wildness, such enmity, would not go unsat- 
isfied. The man's hand went to his pocket. Adam stood tense, 
watching his every movement. Again the man looked at the 
flag — the flag that was almost shot away, the flag that perhaps 
the man argued had been carried aloft on the battle-field at a 
frightful and needless cost, while a calm government sat back 


and said, *' Let the slaughter go on." Was that, questioned 
Adam, what the man was thinking? Adam took a step nearer 
the standard-bearer, whose dim eyes were ignorant of danger. 
Adam seemed to feel in some intuitive way what this pooi, 
frantic creature below meant to do. But he must not be allowed 
to do it — he must not! Those smoky, stained old shreds of 
silk must not feel a wound from the hand of a disloyal son. 

The man's arm shot out. Something gleamed in the sun- 
shine, something sang in the air above the words "in triumph 
shall wave," and an old Zouave stumbled and fell forward upon 
the white stones. . . . The commander of the post stooped 
over the fallen man and lifted his head. The man was a stranger 
to him. He looked at a Zouave standing near, silently ques- 
tioning him. 

" He pushed in front of Peterson, sir, just as that scoundrel 
fired. He tried to grasp the flag, sir. I guess he saw what the 
fellow aimed at." 

Still the commander looked at the speaker, the man who 
had marched all the way beside Adam. 

" Who is he ? " continued the officer. " And what is he doing 
here? He is not one of my men." 

The old Zouave took his ragged cap from his head. 

"He was Dan Roth's brother. We have all heard of him — 
he was the boy who wouldn't join in '61. But to-day he — he — " 

The old man knelt down beside Adam. Just below the dim 
stain on the shoulder of Dan's jacket, the stain which marked 
that day at Alexandria, there was a new, fresh one. The heart 
that lay beneath it was at peace. 

Then there is the pathos of cheerful, brow-beaten Bob 
Cratchit and his sweet Tiny Tim, in Dickens' " Christmas 
Carol." And the grief of the English father for the loss 
of his half-breed child in tropic India, in Kipling's 
"Without Benefit of Clergy." And the despair of the 
poor wretch who watches his own approaching madness, 
in " The Horla," by Maupassant. And the tragic child- 
sorrow of the little prince when he learns that royalty 


cannot keep off Death by posting a guard, in Daudefs 
" The Death of the Dauphin." And Merimee's " Mateo 
Falcone," who becomes the self-appointed executioner of 
his dishonored son. The field of pathos has no boun- 

In conclusion, I can do no better than quote Miss Al- 
bright : 

" There are many varieties and degrees of pathos. 
The emotion aroused may be so sweetly sad as to be 
almost entirely pleasurable ; and again, a story of failure, 
of repression, of denial, may fill the heart with dull, un- 
easing pain. There is the pathos which degenerates into 
a sniffle, and there is that which lies * too deep for tears/ 
There is the delicate pathos which wavers tremulously 
into humor every now and then (as in Steele and the 
Scotch humorists) ; and there is that which, pushed too 
far, falls over the verge into the domain of the ludicrous. 
And there is the poignant, bitter pathos which is so akin 
to tragedy that it necessarily accompanies it and cannot 
be distinguished from it." 21 

(c) Mirth lies near to pathos, as laughter lies close to 
tears. I use it as a general term, including wit and hu- 
mor and all the range between. 

The learned Dr. Barrows has distanced all other an- 
alysts in his celebrated exposition of mirth. 22 

" Sometimes it lieth in path allusions to a known story, 
or in seasonable application of a trivial saying, or in 

21 The Short-Story, p. 200. 

22 Quoted in E. P. Whipple's Literature and Life, p. 89. 


forging an apposite tale; sometimes it playeth in words 
and phrases, taking advantage from the ambiguity of 
their sense or the affinity of their sound ; sometimes it is 
wrapped up in a dress of humorous expression; some- 
times it lurketh under an odd similitude ; sometimes it is 
lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quirkish 
reason, in a shrewd intimation, in cunningly diverting or 
cleverly retorting an objection; sometimes it is couched 
in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart irony, in a lusty 
hyperbole, in a startling metaphor, in a plausible recon- 
ciling of contradictions, or in acute nonsense ; sometimes 
a scenical representation of persons or things, a counter- 
feit speech, a mimical look or gesture, passeth for it; 
sometimes an affected simplicity, sometimes a presumptu- 
ous bluntness, giveth it being; sometimes it riseth only 
from a lucky hitting upon what is strange; sometimes 
from a crafty wresting (of) obvious matter to the pur- 
pose. Often it consisteth in one hardly knows what, 
and springeth up one can hardly tell how, being answer- 
able to the numberless rovings of fancy and windings 
of language." 

Thus we see that the field of mirth is life — life and 
its record, literature. In the former it appeals to us 
every day, of the latter it is the preservative element. 
In this brilliant summary by E. P. Whipple we catch a 
glimpse of the infinite variety of its play : 

". . . to Mirth belong the exhaustless fancy and 
sky-piercing buffooneries of Aristophanes ; the matchless 


irony of Lucian ; the stern and terrible satire of Juvenal ; 
the fun-drunken extravagances of Rabelais; the self- 
pleased chuckle of Montaigne; the farcical caricature of 
Scarron ; the glowing and sparkling verse of Dryden ; the 
genial fun of Addison; the scoffing subtilties of But- 
ler; the aerial merriment of Sterne; the hard brilliancy 
and stinging emphasis of Pope; the patient glitter of 
Congreve ; the teasing mockery of Voltaire ; the polished 
sharpness of Sheridan; the wise drolleries of Sydney 
Smith; the sly, shy, elusive, ethereal humor of Lamb; 
the short, sharp, flashing scorn of Macaulay; the care- 
less gayety of Beranger ; the humorous sadness of Hood ; 
and the comic creations, various almost as human nature, 
which have peopled the imaginations of Europe with 
everlasting forms of the ludicrous, from the time of 
Shakespeare and Cervantes to that of Scott and Dick- 
ens." 23 

To expound and illustrate all the - phases of mirth 
would require a volume. Let it be enough to contrast 
some of the phases of wit and humor. 

Wit deals with externals, humor seeks out the heart; 
wit consorts with contempt, scorn and hate ; humor abides 
with friendship, benevolence and love; wit holds folly 
up to darting ridicule, humor looks with gentle sym- 
pathy upon weakness even while inciting to laughter ; wit 
contrasts with swift surprise, humor slyly points out 
laughable incongruities ; wit strikes down with a wither- 
ing bolt, humor nurtures with enfolding sunshine; wit 

23 Literature and Life, p. 87. 

Ig2 the body of the story 

punishes by the whip, humor humanely rebukes by a 
laughing fillip; wit seeks out the joints of the harness, 
humor strikes a lusty blow frankly on the shield; wit 
is momentary, humor is lasting. " Fuller's remark, 
* that a negro is the image of God cut in ebony/ is hu- 
morous; Horace Smith's inversion of it, that the task- 
master is ' the image of the devil, cut in ivory/ is 
witty." 2 * 

(d)Emotion in the story is secured by certain well- 
defined literary devices which repay study. Make an in- 
vestigation, for example, of how death-scenes are han- 
dled by expert writers, how they connote fear, how all 
the varying sentiments, feelings, and passions are made 
real to the reader. 

Diction is an index to emotion and, besides convey- 
ing the mere ideas for which the words stand, often 
suggests a state of mind. But if you would express emo- 
tion you must observe how much more emotional are 
some words than others. When you feel deeply, use 
a word that is surcharged with all of your own intensity. 
There is such a word. 25 Seek it out. Discard time- 
worn adjectives in old relations. Fit new epithets, and 
specific ones especially, to your ideas. Stevenson tells 
in a memorable passage in his Memories and Portraits, 
in the section on " A College Magazine," how he did 
this very thing painstakingly and with persistence. And 
his use of the notebook wrought magic results. 26 

Figures of Speech are peculiarly suitable for the 

24 Literature and Life, p.92. 

25 See chapter on Acquiring a Vocabulary. 

26 Quoted on p. 280. 


expression of emotional excitement. Exclamation is of 
course the most common. Who can forget Cain's dra- 
matic interrogation, " Am I my brother's keeper ? " Or 
Victor Hugo's use of the historical present as he de- 
scribes the battle of Waterloo in Les Miserable*? I re- 
call a passage in Marsh's The Surprising Husband in 
which the injured wife turns aside from speaking to her 
husband and cries out in apostrophe to no one in particu- 
lar, " Listen to this — person." The exasperation is un- 
mistakable. Hyperbole, irony and sarcasm, as well as 
the more delicate figures, all abound in emotional color- 

Gesture and Posture, whether described alone or 
used in connection with figures of speech, may be made 
expressive of emotion. In the novel just referred to, 
the distraught wife " threw out her arms with a gesture 
which was expressive of contempt of herself and scorn 
of him, of which language could give no hint." 

Study the expressive gestures of orators and actors. 
See the world of meaning they suggest by the simplest 
gestures and attitudes — often more eloquent than words. 
Ernest Renan, speaking of the Old Testament Scrip- 
tures, has said: 

" Anger is expressed in Hebrew in a throng of ways, 
each picturesque, and each borrowed from physiological 
facts. Now the metaphor is taken from the rapid and 
animated breathing which accompanies the passion, now 
from heat or from boiling, now from the act of a noisy 
breaking, now from shivering. Discouragement and 


despair are expressed by the melting of the heart, fear 
by the loosening of the reins. Pride is portrayed by the 
holding high of the head, with the figure straight and 
stiff. Patience is a long breathing, impatience short 
breathing, desire is thirst or paleness. Pardon is ex- 
pressed by a throng of metaphors borrowed from the 
idea of covering, of hiding, of coating over the fault. In 
Job God sews up his sins in a sack, seals it, then throws 
it behind him: all to signify that he forgets them. 
. . . The idea of truth is drawn from solidity, or 
stability ; that of beauty from splendor, that of good from 
straightness, that of evil from swerving or the curved 
line, or from stench. To create is primitively to mould, 
to decide is to cut, to think is to speak. Bone signifies 
the substance, the essence of a thing, and serves in 
Hebrew for our pronoun self. ... in each word one 
still hears the echo of the primitive sensations which 
determined the choice of the first makers of the lan- 
guage." 27 

Emotions are the same now as they were thousands 
of years gone by, and the student of the short-story may 
gain much from an examination of these primitive but 
unsurpassed attempts to translate emotion into language. 

Arrangement of Words is expressive of emotion. 
Study the impression of short, nervous sentences as com- 
pared with long; the panting effect of the frequent use 
of the dash ; the force of inverted order, and similar rhe- 
torical devices. 

27 Quoted in Gardiner's The Bible as English Literature, p. 114. 


(e) Emotion in the author is after all the source- 
spring of emotion in the story and, through it, in the 
reader. It has come to be out-of-fashion to " cry over a 
mere book," but I am glad to be able to shed a tear now 
and then as I follow a pathetic story. I doubt, however, 
if the reader can be made to feel more deeply than the 
author felt when he wrote the passage — though neither 
the author nor the reader need feel angry every time a 
fictional character loses his temper. It requires some 
preparation to bring about intense emotional stress. 
Keep your emotions sane and fresh and genuine and 
tender. Without emotion the author is as dead as his 
stories. Study your own heart, but do not neglect to 
look into other hearts as well. Poe has said that " There 
are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which can- 
not be touched without emotion " 28 — an ambiguous sen- 
tence that is full of meaning any how you take it. 

Emotion in the author often leads to the choice of a 
theme. Interest in, feeling for, a subject cannot be man- 
ufactured, try as you will. Dickens once wrote that he 
was breaking his heart over the writing of The Old 
Curiosity Shop — and all the world has been doing so 
ever since. " We yield to sympathy," says Burke, " what 
we refuse to description." 29 

Powerful emotion gives birth to expression. It is re- 
lated of Croesus 30 that his only living son was dumb. 
When Cyrus captured Sardis, a soldier, not recognizing 

28 The Masque^ of the Red Death. 

29 On the Sublime and Beautiful. 

30 Ancient History, Rollin, Book IV, chap. i. 


Croesus, was about to give the king a blow upon the 
head. The emotion of fear and love for his father so 
wrought upon the young prince that he " broke the string 
of his tongue, and cried out, ' Soldier, spare the life of 
Crcesus ! ' " 

But, finally, the expression of emotional excitement, of 
whatever kind and degree, demands a certain restraint. 
Hawthorne is worth studying for this trait. If the rein 
be inadvertently loosed, pathos may become bathos, senti- 
ment lapse into sentimentality, tragedy into ranting. 
Adapt to your art Hamlet's advice to the players: 

" Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to 
you, trippingly on the tongue : but if you mouth it, as 
many of our players do, I had as lief the town crier 
spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with 
your hand, thus ; but use all gently ; for in the very tor- 
rent, tempest, and (as I may say) whirlpool of your 
passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance, that 
may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul, to 
hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to 
tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the ground- 
lings ; 31 who, for the most part, are capable of nothing 
but inexplicable dumb show, and noise. I would have 
such a fellow whipped for o'er-doing Termagant ; it out- 
herods Herod. Pray you avoid it. 

" Be not too tame, neither, but let your discretion be 
your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the 
action; with this special observance, that you o'erstep 

31 Auditors on the ground floor. 


not the modesty of nature; for anything so overdone is 
from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first, 
and now, was, and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up 
to Nature." 32 

(The outline summary of this chapter is included in that of 
the next chapter on page 215.) 


1. What are the respective effects of very little and very 
much incident in a short-story? 

2. Select the plot-incidents and the developing-incidents in 
any two plots in Appendix C. 

3. What kinds of short-stories are the least unfavorably af- 
fected by the inclusion of unimportant incidents? 

4. What kind tends to incident? 

5. What kind tends to eliminate incident? 

6. From Appendix C select an example of each kind. 

7. From a current magazine select a story full of incident. 

8. Discuss the devices by which the author has secured 

9. Give the dictionary definition of emotion. 

10. Make the fullest classification of the emotions that you 
can, including all inner feelings. 

11. Select short-stories, or plots, illustrating at least five of 
these emotional forms. 

12. What love-situations are the most commonplace in short- 
stories ? 

13. Suggest an unhackneyed manner of treating the same 

14. How may an author's emotional nature be deepened? 

15. Can a sense of humor be cultivated? 

16. As you observe it, do you find the short-story rising or 
declining in moral tone? 

32 Hamlet, Act III, Scene 2. 


17. What causes contribute to the tendency you observe? 

18. How do you discriminate between an immoral and a 
moral short-story? Novel? Are the standards different? 

19. Distinguish pathos from bathos. 

20. Can the short-story be as emotional as the novel? Why? 

21. Give examples from short-stories of how (a) diction, 
(b) figures of speech, and (c) gesture and posture, are made to 
express emotion. 

22. Write original examples of how (a) diction, (b) figures 
of speech, and (c) gesture and posture are made to express 

23. Make a list of as many love-themes as you can, whether 
original or borrowed, always stating where you got the sugges- 
tion. Examples : The sacrifice of a father in working while he 
was ill; the ingenuity of a lover in outwitting an unscrupulous 
rival; the love of a man for his friend. 

24. Describe a unique proposal scene. 

25. Outline a humorous plot, with a surprise. 

26. From an emotional short-story make a list of all the 
words especially expressive of emotion. 

27. Trace the "line of emotion" (Whitcomb) in an emotional 
short-story, somewhat thus : 


Note: Assignments of story-themes for writing will grow 
out of the emotions discussed in the class-room. The instructor 
should not forget to call for a rewriting of earlier story at- 
tempts, in the light of advancing understanding of technique. 


the body of the story — (Concluded) 

Keeping the beginning and the end in view, we set out from the 
right starting-place, and go straight towards the destination; we 
introduce no event that does not spring from the first cause and 
tend to the great effect; we make each detail a link joined to the 
one going before and the one coming after. — David Pryde. 

I have said that the body of the story is the story 
itself, and that therefore everything directly bearing upon 
the short-story is germane to the body. In still further 
considering this phase of the subject, it must be re- 
iterated that I am now taking up only such elements as 
I have not treated elsewhere under separate chapter- 
headings. The preceding chapter was devoted to (i) 
incident and (2) emotion in the short-story. It remains 
now to examine (3) crisis, (4) suspense, (5) climax, (6) 
denouement, and (7) conclusion. 

3. Crisis 

Some writers on the short-story have used this term 
interchangeably with climax. But crisis is not always 
climax, which may be defined as an increase of interest 
up to its highest point. Crisis, however, is a point or 
a period — note the distinction of terms — of oppor- 
tunity, of decision,, of change, The Greek rhetoricians 



called it the " turn " in the plot. It is the watershed of 
the story, the crossroadsj the critical moment, and every 
true short-story has one or more such crucial situations, 
usually closely related to some plot-incident. 1 

Now the climax also may be a place of opportunity, 
choice, or turning, but usually climax is a result of the 
crisis-*- of which more later. 

As just hinted, crisis is not necessarily confined to a 
single point, but may be broken by periods of suspense, 
and even by the introduction of developing incidents — 
that is, one incident may furnish the foundation of the 
crisis while still others contribute upward steps, the full 
crisis occurring later, usually just before the climax. As 
a rule it is not possible for the reader to determine the 
crucial value of these minor crises until the full story is 

The foundation of the crisis is often laid early in the 
story. If this certain thing had not happened the 
ending would have been entirely different. From that 
first critical point onward, one minor crisis after another 
occurs until the story rises to its highest point and 
swiftly falls to its close. This preliminary crisis is gener- 
ally devoid of dramatic quality. It appears without 
trumpet and drum. Even the hero may not foresee the 
far-reaching results which flow from his decision, just as 
in everyday life, but sooner or later its potency must be 
made plain. The movement increases in rapidity, forces 
converge, the final crisis develops, the climax is reached, 
all is explained, and the story is ended. 

1 See the preceding chapter. 


The final crisis in the affairs of an individual, or in the 
career of any subject of fiction — for animals, institu- 
tions, and various other objects may constitute the central 
figures of plot — need not be sensational to be inter- 
esting. The taste of the readers to whom you appeal 
will guide at this point. A moral crisis holds the atten- 
tion of certain minds when physical danger arouses them 
not at all. But in any case the crisis must be such as 
might confront live people, a thing of actual and appre- 
ciable value in the working out of the plot. Study Kip- 
ling's use of crisis in " Without Benefit of Clergy," 2 and 
see the emotional forces which the crucial situations un- 
chain, one after another. There is no tempest-in-a-mill- 
pond here, no straining after effect, no results too big 
for causes, no expectation disproportionate to the out- 
come, no false appraisement of the factors of the crisis. 
Really, I cannot lay too much stress on this point : let but 
the crisis be sincere, natural, emotional, momentous, de- 
cisive, and you have secured one of the most important 
plot elements for your story. 3 

4. Suspense 

The story of plot is constructed first of all to excite 
and enchain interest. For this reason, in this type of 
story, a period of suspense generally follows after each 
minor crisis — if any there be — as well as after the 

2 See p. 376, No. 2. 

8 At the close of this chapter are several short-story plots, 
so annotated as to illustrate how crisis, suspense, climax, de- 
nouement, and conclusion are handled by adepts. See also 
Appendix C. 


main crisis. Then see the characters poised for their 
final destinies in the story. One of two, or even more, 
courses they must adopt, slip into, or be thrust upon. 
If interest has been aroused, this is the period of sus- 
pense just before the climax. " What will happen " ab- 
sorbs the reader. In this period of armistice, of let- 
down, of watchful inaction, he feels rather than sees 
the gathering of forces preparatory to the decisive con- 
flict: he recognizes that soon the climax and the de- 
nouement will be reached. 

Not every story demands or even permits this period 
of suspense. Stories of slight plot glide smoothly to 
their natural issue, which is none the less interesting be- 
cause partly foreseen; but in most instances the reader 
looks for an anticipatory rest before the resolution of the 
chord. The day is not yet past when the troubles of the 
hero and heroine call forth tears. Readers still mentally 
threaten to pummel the author if the suspense is not 
satisfactorily relieved. Who does not remember his own 
feverish impatience, his sweet pain of anxiety, to see how 
a complicated situation would turn out. Indeed, sus- 
pense furnishes half the pleasure of the plot of action, 
the problem plot, and certain intense kinds of character 

Now the handling of the suspense element requires 
delicacy and a nice judgment, but the most skilful literary 
manipulator cannot successfully work up an artificial sus- 
pense without a genuine crisis to excite interest in the 
outcome. It is easy to drift upon the shoals of senti- 
mentalism here; however, if the crisis be a real one, and 


the situation of moment to human lives, the reader will 
not need to be goaded on to suspense. But don't keep it 
up too long. That means flagging interest. Simplicity, 
intensity, seriousness, genuineness — these must mark 
this important transition-period in the serious story. 

5. Climax 

The climax is " the apex of interest and emotion ; it 
is the point of the story." 4 The term has another mean- 
ing — that rhetorical order by which a sentence, a para- 
graph, a whole story, is made to rise in interest and in 
power to its highest point — but that is a problem of 
arrangement, and is not the same as the high-water mark 
of the plot. The one is a process, the other is a point. 

The full crisis and the climax may be identical, but 
often the crisis — the final turning point of character- 
development or of action — may send the interest up- 
ward to the catastrophe, if one there should be. In Poe's 
" Ligeia " the full crisis occurs when the husband begins 
to watch the face of his dead wife, but the climax is 
reserved for the very close when the dead woman's face 
changes to that of Ligeia. 5 Though in Poe's story the 
climax is most sensational, the element of surprise is by 
no means an essential of a good plot. In fact, the be- 
ginner is prone to mar the final effect of his story by 
straining after a striking climax, for he generally suc- 
ceeds in being merely absurd. The climax must seem 
inevitable, though perhaps unexpected. The reader will 

4 Short Story Writing, Barrett, p. 171. 
6 See p. 212. 


almost surely look back and trace the movement of forces 
in the story which lead from the first causes up to the 
climax, and he demands that the climax be what its 
name implies — a ladder ; and he is keen to note missing 
and unsafe rungs. It is important to remember that 
while one may slide down a ladder he must ascend it 
step by step. The gradation toward the climax is no 
small matter. 

Often the outcome of the crisis shows how the 
threatened catastrophe was avoided, or actually came 
about; just as either death or recovery may follow the 
crisis in a disease, and either one prove to be the real 
climax in the history of the patient. 

No pitfall is more treacherous than that of the false 
climax, which introduces a halting element into the plot 
and sends the story limping to its close. As you plot 
the body of the story be courageously relentless in self- 
criticism. See to it that the grand climax does not come 
too soon, that the lesser event does not detract from the 
interest of the greater, and that the climax does not 
leave the reader still in suspense — if you are going to 
resolve the suspense at all. Let your climax be brief 
and intense. No time for descriptions or trivialities 
then. Deal only with vital things, and don't overdo 
them. Your climax may be quiet and contain no element 
of surprise, but let it be convincing and satisfy the 
reader that everything possible has been made out of the 
situation. In the climax lies the mainspring of that 
totality of impression for which you have been working, 
so do not let it get beyond your control. 


One difficulty in this connection is that of handling 
what Professor Perry calls ." the tragic moment " — that 
is, the preparation for the climax. The crisis, let us say, 
is past and the results of choice are to appear in the 
climax. Either the reader feels so certain of the climax 
that he loses interest, or else the interest has been so 
wrought up that there is a tremendous fascination in 
watching the progress of a conclusion which is thus fore- 
gone, as one would watch the losing fight of a swimmer 
doomed to go over the falls. This calls for fine handling, 
to make the action so pulsate with reality that the reader 
will sit back and watch a character march on to his 
fate, perhaps without even a hope of a reversal at the 

Sometimes there is a hint of a possible reversal, as 
when Macbeth, grasping at the last slender chance, re- 
calls the prophecy that he would not be slain by one of 
woman born; but even that hope is quickly quenched. 
Again, the reversal may actually come, by some ingen- 
ious device; but such an ending is pretty sure to do vio- 
lence to nature, and ring untrue. Happy is that writer 
of plot-stories who is able to save his hero at the last 
ditch without wresting the situation from the course of 
truthful seeming. 

6. Denouement 

From the foregoing it will appear how intimately 
climax is associated with denouement. Just as crisis 
leads immediately to climax, so climax tends swiftly 
toward the denouement. As we have seen, the word 


means literally an untying, therefore in mystery stories 
and in plots where concealment is necessary to support 
interest, the untangling of the threads is likely to be a 
part of the climax itself. 

In disclosing the mystery in novels it is customary to 
spend some time in explaining the complications. That 
way danger lies for the short-story writer. In the mys- 
tery story the author should begin early to set his wires 
so that with a single pull the whole house of bafflement 
may come tumbling down before our eyes, at a glance dis- 
closing the secret. In the short-story the mystery must 
be less complex than in the novel, hence the uncovering 
of the secret will require less time. But if I knew per- 
fectly how to hold a breathless mystery up to the last mo- 
ment and then disclose it all in a trice, I could not — 
and perhaps would not if I could — impart it to others. 
This is the very incommunicable heart of the plotter's 
craft. 6 

The skilful writer lays the foundation of the denoue- 
ment all through the story, by which I mean that the 
denouement is vitally bone and sinew with the rest of the 
story. Sometimes there are hints of the outcome scat- 
tered here and there with an elaborate cunning — that 
may or may not defeat its purpose. But even when these 
hints are not given, the effect must be no greater than 
its cause, the disclosure must more than live up to the 
hint, in the slightest particular. Expectation is good, 
but it imposes the responsibility of " making good." 

In concealing his denouement by a well-articulated 

• See p. 209. 


structure the literary architect must have a care not to 
let the framework stick out. To do so spoils the liter- 
ary effect, robs the story of its illusion, and " gives 
away" the secret which he is attempting to hide. An 
acute reader can sniff from afar the solution of a mys- 
tery, so the issue of a complication must be kept from 
under inquisitive noses until just the proper moment 
When you see a reader who has been absorbed in every 
word of a narrative suddenly begin to slight whole pages 
you may know he has scented the outcome. 

Are there two possible endings to a perfect short- 
story? Robert Louis Stevenson argues that a story will 
not allow the fiction-writer to take liberties with the 
plot, or the destinies of the characters, as Kipling did in 
making two different endings to The Light That Failed. 
The denouement of the perfect story is inevitable, and 
the reader feels its inevitability with perfect approval. 
" Make another end to it ? " writes Stevenson to a 
friend. " Ah, yes, but that's not the way I write ; the 
whole tale is implied; I never use an effect when I can 
help it, unless it prepares the effects that are to follow ; 
that's what a story consists in. To make another end, 
that is to make the beginning all wrong. The denoue- 
ment of a long story is nothing, it is just ' a full close,' 
which you may approach and accompany as you please 
— it is a coda, not an essential member in the rhythm; 
but the body and end of a short-story is bone of the bone 
and blood of the blood of the beginning." 7 

Often climax and denouement^ and even conclusion, 

7 Vailima Letters, Vol. I, p. 147. 


are identical, as in " The Horla," by Maupassant. 8 This 
is the diary of a man who feels that some power out- 
side himself possesses his soul and controls it, causing 
him to do things he would not, and of which he may 
be at the time unconscious. He makes a vigorous strug- 
gle against this obsession, now successfully, now only 
to fail. At last (full crisis) he succeeds in shutting the 
haunting presence in his house and then sets fire to the 
building, watching it burn, hoping to consume his perse- 
cutor. But he suddenly fears that fire can have no such 
effect, and he ends his diary thus : " No — no — beyond 
any doubt, beyond any doubt, he is not dead. Then — 
then — it will soon be necessary for me to kill myself ! " 
(climax, denouement and conclusion identical). 

Upon the other hand, we have crisis, climax, and con- 
clusion definitely separated in Marion Crawford's " The 
Upper Berth," 9 though there is no denouement, because 
the mystery is unexplained. When the narrator finally 
grapples with the unseen thing in the upper berth we 
have the full crisis ; the climax comes when the struggle 
results in his downward fall and that of the sea captain 
also; the conclusion — which is rather weak — explains 
that thereafter the stateroom was kept locked and that 
neither the narrator nor the captain would ever sail again 
on that ship. 

But not every denouement will contain a disclosure. 
That has led some critics to assert that denouement is 
not an essential of the short-story. But we must re- 

8 See p. 376, No. 10. 

9 See p. 377, No. 15. 


member that the revelation may merely show how the 
critical moment is met and perhaps hint at the future 
course. From such simple outcomes, which require no 
special concealment, it seems a far cry to the untying of 
the knotted threads of the mystery plot, but both prop- 
erly come under the same head. 

The more obscure the mystery the greater is the 
necessity for keeping its outcome hidden until the last 
moment. I know of no way to accomplish this other 
than by using the utmost ingenuity you possess. " It is 
only with the denouement constantly in view that we can 
give a plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causa- 
tion, by making the incidents and especially the tone at 
all points tend to the development of the intention." 10 

The reader is normally hopeful. With all his breath- 
less anxiety for the outcome of the story of plot, he 
feels a certain confidence in the ability of the characters 
to rise superior to their entanglements, therefore the 
author may wish to make a way out seem quite hopeless. 
Let him have a care lest the complication be tied so tight 
that no plausible way out is possible. Then the Gordian 
knot must be cut — much to everyone's disgust. 

Magazine editors are generally committed to the 
" happy ending " fetish. You may be certain of this. I 
think that they misjudge their readers in this respect, at 
least if we consider the clientele of magazines of the 
better sort. The average short-story reader demands 
that a simple love story end happily, though that does 
not necessarily involve a wedding ; but as for the problem 

10 The Philosophy of Composition, Poe. 


story, the great majority of readers are more eager that 
their sense of justice should be satisfied than that the 
chief characters should " live happily ever afterward." 
To be sure, they want justice to be tempered with mercy, 
if the transgressor has been made an attractive charac- 
ter, but it is just so in real life, too. And herein no small 
moral responsibility rests upon the author. 11 It is much 
more important that a story should end hopefully than 
with a smile. Optimism is a pretty good philosophy, in 
fiction as well as in real life. 

The discriminating reader objects to having the fate 
of characters determined unhappily by mere accident, 
without a sight of the causes which might reasonably 
bring about such results. The element of fate is used in 
the denouement of the novel more frequently than in the 
short-story, and so also is the idea of retribution, both 
human and divine. Yet fate and retributive justice as 
themes afford fine opportunities for the exercise of the 
highest powers of the short-story writer. 12 

7. Conclusion 

The modern tendency, as so admirably illustrated by 
some of Poe's master efforts, is to allow the denouement 
to serve as the full close of the short-story. Still there 
are exceptions a-plenty and formal conclusions are still 

Some writers seem unable to let go, but go ambling on 

11 See The Problem of Endings, Mary Tracy Earle, Book 
Buyer, Aug., 1898. Also William Allen White, in Collier's, Feb. 
11, 1905. 

12 See Appendix C, No. 18. 


after the manner of Richardson in his Pamela, They 
insist on moralizing, trying to taper off smoothly, seeing 
the newly engaged couple happily married, and other- 
wise disposing of minor characters. Others end so ab- 
ruptly as to leave their characters in mid-air. Either 
extreme is absurd enough. In certain stories a single 
paragraph, or at most two, may well be used to bring 
the narrative to a satisfying close. No one can give 
helpful counsel here. Use your own judgment. When 
you are through, stop; but do your best to conclude 
with words of distinction. 

In Maupassant's " A Coward " 13 the conclusion is 
identical with the denouement, which we discern ap- 
proaching like the crawling of an insidious reptile. The 
" coward " fears to display trepidation in an ap- 
proaching duel, more than he fears death. He fears 
fear. We see him examining every detail of the duelling 
pistol, while he speculates on all his possible experiences 
should he exhibit fear during the contest. " And yet he 
was really brave, because he wanted to fight! He was 
brave, because — The thought that grazed his mind 
was never completed; opening his mouth wide, he sud- 
denly thrust the barrel of the pistol into the very bottom 
of his throat and pressed upon the trigger (climax). 

" When his valet ran in, alarmed by the report, he 
found him on his back, dead. The blood had spattered 
the white paper on the table, and made a great stain 
under the four words : 

" ' This is my Will ' " (denouement and conclusion). 

13 See p. 376, No. 10. 


In Poe's " Ligeia," the narrator first minutely describes 
the remarkably perfect physique, mentality and attain- 
ments of Ligeia, his wife. She falls ill {foundation of 
crisis) and after a period of suspense dies (end of prelim- 
inary crisis). The narrator then takes an old abbey in a 
remote part of England, and both restores and sumptu- 
ously furnishes it in a weirdly unique style. He then 
marries Lady Rowena Trevanion, though his whole 
being is still absorbed with memories of Ligeia. Lady 
Rowena also falls ill (foundation of second crisis). She 
grows better, then worse, and finally takes a glass of 
wine to revive her. Three red drops of liquid are seen 
mysteriously to fall into the cup, and presently she dies 
(second step of final crisis). Three times, as the hus- 
band looks upon her dead body, each time thinking of 
his dead and still-loved Ligeia, the Lady Rowena re- 
vives (full crisis). Twice she sinks back into death, but 
the last time that she revives the husband realizes that 
" These are the full, and the black, and the wild-eyes — 
of my lost love — of the Lady — of the LADY LI- 
GEIA " (climax, denouement, and conclusion). 

In Ouida's " A Leaf in the Storm," 14 Reine Allix is a 
venerable French peasant who lives with her grandson, 
Bernadou. When the youth marries Margot, the bride 
comes to live with Reine Allix. A child is born, and all 
is happiness. Suddenly the terrible news of war, France 
against Prussia, is announced (foundation of crisis). 
Excitement at length yields to a sort of calm, for the 

14 See p. 377, No. 20 ; also pp. 163, 166, 167, 169. 


village hears only indefinitely of the struggle. But 
Reine Allix has forebodings and recalls the days of the 
Napoleonic wars (suspense). By and by a Prussian spy 
is said to have passed among them, and the news of 
French defeat is heard (second stage of crisis, rise 
toward climax). Again quiet and suspense. At last, 
" The Prussians are on us!" rises the cry (full crisis). 
The patriot Bernadou is almost alone as he urges a de- 
fense. The Prussians sack the town, but the people do 
not resist. Bernadou is shot for refusing to guide the 
enemy about the countryside. A rearing horse stamps 
out the life of Bernadou's babe and Margot falls dead 
(climax). The Prussians fire the village but Reine Allix 
is alone with her dead, whom she has carried to her cot- 
tage — and that too, with its living and dead occupants, 
is consumed in the holocaust (conclusion). 

" A Tale of Two Burdens," 15 by Irving Bacheller, is 
told by Bill Gwinup, woodsman. Being sent for by Cal- 
laday, a millionaire camper, he engages with him as 
guide. Calladay has angered the squatters by driving 
them off his newly-bought preserves, on which they and 
their ancestors had hunted and fished for generations 
(foundation of crisis). When starting on a day's fish- 
ing, Calladay fits the guide out with a new suit, but 
himself dresses in old clothes, and carries the pack. A 
squatter mistakes Bill for Calladay, and fires at him, nar- 
rowly missing his head (full crisis). The squatter 
" holds up " the supposed millionaire offender and forces 

15 Century, Aug., 1908. 


him to sign a release of the squatter's land (period of 
suspense). Bill, angered by Calladay's plot to put him 
in danger, continues to play Calladay's part, forces Calla- 
day, by signing Bill's name, to witness the paper, volun- 
teers to give the squatter a thousand dollars, forces the 
millionaire to carry the squatter's fifty-pound pack, and 
otherwise rubs in his temporary advantage (climax). 
When they get to camp, Calladay takes his medicine by 
signing the promised check, swearing to the deed, and 
"resigning his job" as make-believe guide (conclusion). 
In " An Error of Judgment," 16 by Elliott Flower, a 
watchman is standing before the doorway of a burned 
store anxiously waiting to be relieved. He is accosted 
by a stranger who observes his discontented air. Learn- 
ing that the watchman is hungry and " broke," the 
stranger gives him a dollar and offers to take his post 
while he goes across the street to eat his breakfast. 
While the watchman is gone the stranger enters the 
building and investigates. He is an expert insurance 
adjuster and soon discovers beneath a counter some 
charred rags which had been saturated with coal oil 
(foundation for crisis). He goes out, the watchman re- 
turns, is relieved from duty, and the owner of the store 
comes with his lawyer. The adjuster charges the owner 
with setting fire to his own store and advises him to 
make no insurance claim. Suit is brought against the 
owner for arson (second step of crisis). He finds that 
he must sue the insurance company for payment, or else 
tacitly admit his guilt. He seeks to settle with the com- 

16 Putnam's Reader, Aug., 1908. 


pany, knowing that any payment by them, however small, 
would be proof that they could not really suspect him 
of firing his own store. The company declines. Sud- 
denly the owner shows increased confidence in his 
chances (third step of crisis). This perplexes the com- 
pany and its adjuster. They feel that the owner is guilty 
but have no proof to show that he or any of his em- 
ployees were in the store the night of the fire. At length 
the case comes to trial (full crisis). After proving the 
facts, the prosecution rests. The defense admits the 
facts, denies any knowledge of the crime, and calls the 
watchman to the stand. He testifies that the insurance 
adjuster w r as the only man who entered the building be- 
tween the times when the firemen left and the police 
came, and relates how the adjuster got him, the watch- 
man, out of the way. The inference is made that the ad- 
juster himself deposited the rags. The owner is acquit- 
ted and the full amount of insurance is paid, though the 
reader is led to believe that the owner really was guilty 
(climax and denouement). The adjuster is mildly re- 
buked by his manager, who agrees never again to refer 
to his employee's " error of judgment " {conclusion). 

(Including Outline of Preceding Chapter) 

The Body of the Story 
i. Incident 
2. Emotion 

(a) Love Interest 

(&) Pathos 


(c) Mirth 

(rf) Emotion in the Story 

(e) Emotion in the Author 

3. Crisis 

4. Suspense 
5_ Climax 

6. Denouement 

7. Conclusion 


1. Select the main and the minor crises in plots 6 to 10 in 
Appendix C. 

2. What objection is there to having many minor crises in a 
short-story ? 

3. Does suspense necessarily involve the mystification of the 
reader ? 

4. Select the full climax in each of plots 6 to 10 in Appen' 
dix C. 

5. Discuss the wisdom of making a plot climax seem 

6. Discuss the relation of surprise to climax. 

7. Select five plots in Appendix C in which climax is identical 
with denouement. 

8. Five in which denouement is identical with conclusion. 

9. Write your opinions upon the "happy ending." 

10. (a) What is true tragedy? (b) Can it consist with the 
" happy ending"? 

11. Write a story with but one crisis, and a swift climax 

12. Write out the climax scene in any one of plots 11-15 in 
Appendix C without reading the original stories. 

13. Now add the denouement and conclusion in your own 

14. Outline stories in which (a) accident, (b) fate, (c) retri- 
bution, form either the pivots for the crises, or the denouements. 

15. Outline a plot, but write out the conclusion in full. 



16. Read a short-story up to the crisis, then supply a crisis 
of your own devising. 

17. Do the same for (a) climax, (b) denouement, (c) con- 

18. Let the instructor assign certain short-stories, or merely 
plots, for plot-analysis somewhat in the manner of the following 
diagrams. The points of change in the plots should be clearly 
indicated on the diagrams by filling in sentences or briefly desig- 
nating the situations: 





Rise of interest 
by statement 
of problem 

First crisis 1 
and suspense 


Period of 

Gradual fall to inev- 
itable denouement 
and close 


Action at once 
rises to minor 

Suspense inten- 
sifies interest 

Reader in doubt 

Sudden rise to 
climax and 

Note: Such exercises may be multiplied and varied in- 
definitely. If accessible, the original stories should later be 
examined side by side with the student's effort. 



Learn to see with other people's eyes, and to feel with other 
people's hearts. — How to Write a Novel, Anonymous. 

Knowledge of human nature is the gold which is to be worked 
into a form of beauty, it is the diamond which is to be cut and 
polished. Art is that which forms the gold into a thing of use 
and beauty; it is that which reveals the natural beauty of the 
diamond to the ordinary observer. A good form, a true art, 
displays the precious object to the best advantage. . . . Those 
two are the essential principles of human progress, without whose 
marriage there can be no children of the imagination. — Sherwin 
Cody, The World's Greatest Short Stories. 

Read the titles of the first big batch of short-stories 
you come across and see how the spirit of personality- 
pervades them all. Test this matter more thoroughly by 
going over the one-hundred titles in Appendix B, and 
you will find that sixty per cent, refer directly to charac- 
ters in the stories, while a considerable proportion of the 
remainder suggest human interest. 

Mr. Howells has said that character delineation is at 
once the largest and best element in the novel; so also 
is it in the short-story. Length for length, the one gives 
character-drawing as much prominence as the other. To 
be sure, notable exceptions exist in both, but generally it 
is human interest that binds incident into a coherent 



mass. Certain kinds of short-stories, indeed, can get 
along with a smaller proportion of character delineation 
than the novel — as witness many Kipling stories — but 
that is true largely because rapid play of incident takes so 
vigorous a part in the shorter fictional form, and we 
judge the characters by what they say and do rather 
than by what is said about them. 

In The Evolution of the English Novel Professor Stod- 
dard has pointed out that, " as in civilization the complete 
idea of the value of an individual, and even the complete 
individual name, is slow in development, so in literary 
expression the complete individual is a very late prod- 
uct." x The recent development of the novel and the 
short-story have therefore quite naturally resulted in a 
more highly individualized type of character delineation 
than appeared in the earlier romances and tales. The 
very term " characters," now more generally used than 
" persons in the story," suggests individuality. As Mr. 
Mabie has effectively put it, " Formerly good and evil 
were indicated by contrasting bands of black and white ; 
to-day they separate from or approach one another 
through innumerable gradations of gray." 2 

The problem is how to put live characters — I have not 
said transplant living people — into the short-story. No 
living being is interesting enough to live bodily, in all 
his moods and phases, in the short-story. In the bi- 
ography he is, once in a century ; in the novel he may be, 
though I am not sure; but in the short-story he would 

1 Page 46. 

2 Stories New and Old, Introduction. 


be too commonplace were he never so individual. " In 
fiction ... a character must be exaggerated to ap- 
pear natural." 3 He must live, but the course of his life 
must be unusual while seeming to be usual. In his essay- 
on The Really Interesting People, 4 Colonel Higginson 
tells how " Sir Robert Walpole, who lived to be nearly 
eighty, remarked of his coeval Lord Tyrawley, ' Ty raw- 
ley and I have been dead for two years, but we don't 
tell anybody/ " But when a character in fiction is dead 
he sits up and shouts it out to everybody — it is the one 
thing that cannot be hid. Emotion is the source-spring 
of character-interest, and emotion a dead character never 

Mr. Henry James has given in his Partial Portraits an 
intimate view of how a great Russian fictionist looked 
upon his character creations. 

" Nothing that Turgenieff had to say could be more 
interesting than his talk about his own work, his manner 
of writing. What I have heard him tell of these things 
was worthy of the beautiful results he produced; of the 
deep purpose, pervading them all, to show us life itself. 
The germ of a story, with him, was never an affair of 
plot — that was the last thing he thought of : it was the 
representation of certain persons. The first form in 
which a tale appeared to him was as the figure of an in- 
dividual, or a combination of individuals, whom he 
wished to see in action, being sure that such people must 

3 Short Story Writing, Barrett. 
*Book and Heart, p. 191. 


do something very special and interesting. They stood 
before him definite, vivid, and he wished to know, and to 
show, as much as possible of their nature. The first thing 
was to make clear to himself what he did not know, to 
begin with; and to this end, he wrote out a sort of 
biography of each of his characters, and everything that 
they had done and that had happened to them up to the 
opening of the story. He had their dossier, as the 
French say, and as the police have that of every con- 
spicuous criminal. With this material in his hand he 
was able to proceed; the story all lay in the question, 
What shall I make them do? He always made them do 
things that showed them completely; but, as he said, 
the defect of his manner and the reproach that was made 
him was his want of ' architecture,' — in other words, of 
composition. The great thing, of course, is to have 
architecture as well as precious material, as Walter Scott 
had them, as Balzac had them." 5 

I. Selecting the Characters 

The sources of character-material seem ridiculously 
plentiful, yet few eyes are trained to discern, and fewer 
pens to develop them. 

(a) The successful writer must study character as a 
preliminary to selecting characters for his stories. 

To advise a young writer to look within his own being 

5 Partial Portraits, Henry James. Compare this view with 
Mr. Howells' position, p. 94. 


is popular counsel, 6 yet when he does look he is likely 
to be confused by the complexities of that inner life. 
Self-analysis comes by practice in self-awareness. Ques- 
tion yourself thus: What am I now thinking? What 
train of ideas led up to my present thoughts? What 
motives influenced my last important act? Were they 
simple or complex? Did they involve a conscious strug- 
gle? What considerations really formed the decision? 
Or was the decision an unconscious one? And did I 
awaken to find it ready-made ? How did I feel after the 
decision was reached? 

Questions such as these will light up the chambers, 
yes, the caverns, of your inner self, and uncover the 
springs of feeling and of motive in other lives too. You 
must know the workings of your own mind before you 
can read the characters about you. 

In practising character-study, remember that many 
persons are worth observing who may not be worth 
delineating. Skill in reading faces, inferring motive 
from conduct, associating habit with essential character, 
comes with practice, and you can practise on all comers. 
No one ever wrote good stories whose habit it was to 
see people only in the mass. What is it, precisely and 
intimately what is it, that makes two people different? 
Press home that question when next you have a chance 
to observe your fellows, remembering always that the 
inner man forms the outer, and that each must have its 
share of study. 

Books, too, will help you. Read the great character 

6 See p. 56, 


artists — Dickens, Thackeray, Stevenson, Balzac and 
Kipling. And don't despise a good text-book on psy- 
chology. 7 

(b) The principles of selection will arise in your mind 
quite naturally as your skill in reading character grows. 
Either your incidents will govern your characters, or 
vice versa. If the former, your selection is limited to 
the kind of folk who could and would do the things 
required. If you are writing for a particular class of 
magazines you will find there another guidepost. St. 
Nicholas and Harper's and Smart Set welcome charac- 
ters of different sorts. Some great fiction characters 
have won a place in the affections of schoolgirl and 
sage alike, but they are as exceptional as men of genius 
in actual life. 

What characters are worth delineating ? A hard ques- 
tion, if one expects a definitive answer. But, speaking 
generally, the world is in love with the future — in 
youth and what it will be and do. It wants to read 
about people who do interesting things in interesting 
places under interesting conditions; who exhibit strong 
individuality, whether for good or evil; whose appear- 
ance typifies their natures (with exceptions) ; who show 
the characteristics of a class and yet are individual; 
whose emotions — love, hate, revenge, greed, humor, 
ambition, what not — take unexpected though logical 

Men are often interested in fictional characters whom 

7 Gordy's New Psychology is a good one for elementary read- 



they would not care to know in life. It will not do to 
exclude a character because he is a prig, or a glutton, 
or a thief. Who was it that called d'Artagnan a lovable 
rogue and a pestilent good-fellow? Let your character 
be but interesting, really known to you, and so human 
that he would strike back if you struck him and 
your readers will decide as to whether he is a good 
fellow or bad. Moral teaching is not a cause, but an 

2. The Number and Relation of Characters 

'After the Battle," Joseph A Alt- 

sheler (15) - 

"The Piece of String,' Guy de Mau 

passant (28) 

"The Gold Bug," Edgar Allen Poe 


"A Yarn Without a Moral," Morgan 

Robertson (27)..... 

"The Ambitious Guest," Nathaniel 

Hawthorne (works) 

"How Gavin Birse Put it to Mag 

Lownie," James M. Barrie(28) — 
''Santa Fe Charlie's Kindergarten," 

Thomas A. Janvier (Santa Fd's 


"Quite So," Thomas Bailey Aldrich 


"The Man Who Would be King," 

Rudyard Kipling (28) 

"'The Black Pearl/' Victorien Sardou 




4 to 5 


but ^not 


but not 


12 to 13 

(The numbers in parentheses refer to Appendix A.) 

Following, in part, the method employed by Professor 
Selden C. Whitcomb in The Study of a Novel, I have 


set down a table of those characters actually individual-' 
ized in ten representative short-stories. Of course, the 
practice of ten authors could not establish a precedent 
even if their practices did not vary as widely as they do, 
but it will be observed that the best writers employ few 
speaking characters in the short-story, and they rarely 
equal the number of silent actors. 

The relations which the characters are to sustain to- 
ward each other will have a strong bearing upon the 
number to be introduced, as the foregoing table will 
suggest. In denning the short-story I have limited it 
to the presentation of one preeminent character; and 
this is the case even where the study is of two char- 
acters each powerfully influencing the other. The us- 
ual course is to play the minor characters as contribu- 
tory to the central figure. But the author cannot always 
choose which character is to win the spot-light on his 
stage. Sometimes one character will come to the front 
in spite of plot and plan. The person making the great- 
est sacrifice may overtop the one possessing the most 
pleasing qualities, the foil may unexpectedly outshine 
the leading light. Some characters naturally belong in 
the foreground, some in the middle-distance, others in 
the dim background. Therefore respect their native 
qualities and treat each with a painter's regard for per- 
spective. To color the one too brightly would be to 
mar the harmony of the whole as much as to paint the 
central character in neutral tint. 

Character relation must be decided before approach 
is made to characterization. Plot and counterplot, hero 


and villain, light and foil, all need careful adjustment, 
depending considerably upon whether the story is to be 
one of single character, contrasted character, balanced 
character, group character, realistic character, idealistic 
character, romantic character, or no character-story at all, 
but a narrative of incident. 

3. Character Classes 

Various writers have tried to group the figures of fic- 
tion in a few elemental classes. The Explorer, the De- 
fender, and the Dweller; the Wanderer, the Hero, and 
the Citizen; the Adventurer, the Achiever, the Sufferer, 
and the Lover — these groupings are sufficiently illus- 
trative. Whether such a classification can or cannot be 
satisfactorily effected, we must look to great typical fig- 
ures as heading the classes of characters with which the 
story-writer deals. 

The big word here is TRAITS ; that is what we must 
look for, and when we have grouped a special lot of 
traits we have found a basis for (a) typical characters. 
The student of character will find this a fascinating study. 
National traits, sectional traits, class traits, professional 
traits, sexual traits, personal traits — all furnish bases 
for types. But, more than this, traits cross and com- 
plicate indefinitely. For example, the soldier possesses 
his class- traits, modified by his nationality, his province, 
and his personality. And this is the fiction-writer's great 
good fortune, for it offers to his originality the chance 
of making fresh character combinations every day, either 


according to the law of character harmony } or, what is 
still more fascinating, by embodying contradictory traits 
in the same being. 

Professor Bliss Perry 8 has said that we commonly use 
the word " type " in either of two ways : as meaning the 
ideal, which combines the essential natures of all of a 
class; or, as meaning a fair example of one class — 
an average specimen. This distinction is valid, and bears 
upon the fiction-writer's treatment of character. 

But delineation of types may be pressed too far. 
Some writers picture for us not a woman, but woman- 
hood; not a suffering man, but suffering. This method 
is too often purely ideal. While it may exalt our con- 
ceptions of truth, or excite our wonder at a general con- 
dition, it rarely moves us deeply, for mere types lack 
flesh and blood. 

A second method, equally one-sided, is that of pre- 
senting (b) purely personal characters, with no attempt 
to make them also typical of a class. No individual, 
apart from his typical traits, is likely to be worth de- 
lineating in a short-story. He is a mere eccentric, de- 
tached from normal humanity, interesting only as a 

(c) The joint method is by all odds the most satis- 
factory. The character may be simple, complex, or in- 
consistent, still, if a living person is constructed out of a 
combination of typical and personal traits, a convincing 
figure will emerge from the background. He will then 
be more than an American soldier; he will be a Vir- 

8 A Study of Prose Fiction, chap. v. 


ginian, a reenlisted sergeant, a native wit — and all the 
rest of his own personality down to his toes. Unless per- 
sonal traits dominate class traits a character remains a 
puppet, an abstraction — as, now and then, it may suit an 
author's purpose to make him. What the reader wants, 
for the most part, is a Representative Man, with due 
emphasis laid on each word. 

The nuisance of story-telling is the conventional type- 
character. There are other ways of delineating an Eng- 
lishman than by forcing him to drop his h's with a dull 
thud, of picturing a Southern gentleman than by inter- 
polating countless " suh's " into his speech, and of draw- 
ing a cow-puncher than by putting into his mouth a 
string of lurid cuss-words. Such methods are amateur- 
ish and smack of the 10-20-30-cent stage. Goethe has 
compared Shakespeare's characters to watches in crystal 
cases, which, while they faithfully point out the hours, 
disclose to the beholder their inner workings. Some 
writers seem to think that all personal characteristics are 
like beauty in the old adage, which lies but skin-deep. 

In choosing your type-individuals do not be a slave 
to fashions in heroes and heroines. Why must your 
gentleman-adventurer be of the Zenda school, your young 
woman commit her misdemeanors like Nancy, " dia- 
logue " like Dolly, and look deceptively serious, like a 
Fisher girl? 

4. The Relation of Characters to Action and Setting 

These three short-story elements are handled in accord 
with the designer's plan, the one or the other predom- 


inating as may suit his purpose and best tell the story. 
No rule can avail here but the double law of harmony 
and contrast. 9 Once your purpose is settled, you will 
be able to decide which will best bring out your char- 
acters. To select a character that is too big for the 
setting, to bury character under action, or to emphasize 
the setting unduly, are equally fatal faults. The chief 
purpose of the short-story is to present character as do- 
ing, being, or becoming, in an appropriate environment. 
Hold all in a safe balance. 

5. The Author s Attitude Toward His Characters 

Doubtless many a writer does not suppose that his 
readers are more or less consciously alert to discover 
his attitude toward his Active creatures, yet such is the 
fact. Is he content with the present social order, or 
is he a social reformer? or a social malcontent? or a 
cynical indifferentist ? His outlook on life, it goes with- 
out saying, is likely to transpire in his stories. In the 
same manner it will appear whether he views his char- 
acters with a cold indifference, as does Maupassant; 
actual contempt, as disclosed in Flaubert ; frank worship, 
like Scott; or a discriminating sympathy, in the manner 
of Stevenson. 10 Perhaps you will agree with me that the 
last is the only warm-hearted, spirit-kindling attitude to 
maintain. It was Sidney Lanier who said that the fic- 
tion-writer partakes of the Divine power because it is 
given to him to look into and mould the inner lives of 

9 Fully discussed in the chapter on Setting. 

10 Compare pp. no and 175. 


his characters. Surely, then, he should feel a temperate 
sympathy for those whose virtues and vices are the 
creatures of his art. 


Characterization is the process of setting forth, of 
depicting, the characters in the story. It is a specialized 
sort of description, both internal and external in its 

1. Effect To Be Attained 

The result to be sought after is an effect of life-like- 
ness which will make the characters seem to be living be- 
ings in whose affairs the readers have a genuine interest. 
And indeed this end is now and then so fully attained 
that the characters do become our permanent possession 
as friends. But such sense of actuality can scarcely be 
produced upon the reader unless the writer has him- 
self realized his characters. The height of verisimilitude 
is reached when the author and the reader experience the 
same emotions as a given character excites in his fellow 
characters. Then, indeed, there is vital delineation. In 
De Finibns Thackeray describes himself as writing in the 
gray of the evening and picturing a character so vividly 
to himself that at length he looks " rather wistfully up 
from the paper with perhaps ever so little fancy that HE 

I have said that the author's purpose in characteriza- 

11 Quoted in The Technique of the Novel, Home, p. 185. 


tion is to create a life-like impression. But a word, and 
only a word, must be added to particularize this general 
statement. The literary ideals of the writer will mould 
this purpose into one of the following five forms : to de- 
pict characters precisely as they are in life (realism); 
as they ought to be (idealism); as they might be under 
extraordinary conditions (romanticism) ; as they would 
be with their natural characteristics exaggerated to dis- 
tortion (caricature) ; or, as they would appear under 
conditions which the writer creates for them (a com- 
posite of the other four methods). 

2. General Methods of Characterization 

■ The short-story writer must get his people before the 
reader at the earliest possible moment, and in doing so 
he has choice of three general methods : 

(a) Description may be applied to the characters in 
the story very much as it is to the setting, but it must 
be kept in mind that only physical appearance appeals to 
the eye, while character centers in some unseen part of 
the man. 12 The outward will interpret the inward and 
is often its subtlest expression, so that these two of the 
methods of characterization are often used conjointly — 
physical description touches upon, suggests and rein- 
forces delineation of character. 13 

(i) The direct method of description is often at- 
tempted and often fails. The short-story is too short 

12 The reader will of course bear in mind the distinction be- 
tween the terms characters and character. 

13 See p. 233. 


to a*im>t of its large use. Of course, an artist in words 
will succeed where another would not, but the chances 
a*-e decidedly against successful direct description of 
t£e characters. 

(2) The indirect method either allows one character 
to depict another, or develops the delineation gradually 
as the story proceeds — a very good method indeed. 

(3) The suggestive method seizes upon a salient char- 
acteristic and makes it stand for the whole, allowing 
the reader to fill in the details from imagination. This 
method requires a facile pen and is good — when it is 
good. It lends itself readily to humor, satire and cari- 

Here is a capital example of direct description from 
Stevenson's Treasure Island: 

I remember him as if it were yesterday, as he came plodding 
to the inn door, his sea-chest following behind him in a hand- 
barrow; a tall, strong, heavy, nut-brown man; his tarry pigtail 
falling over the shoulders of his soiled blue coat; his hands 
ragged and scarred, with black, broken nails ; and the sabre*cut 
across one cheek, a dirty, livid white. 

The following direct description is from Henry James's 
" The Tragic Muse." 

What Biddy discerned was that this young man was fair and 
fat and of the middle stature; he had a round face and a short 
beard, and on his crown a mere reminiscence of hair, as the 
fact that he carried his hat in his hand permitted it to be 

Compare the older with the more modern method, as 
shown in these direct delineations. The first is from 


Irving, the other from " O. Henry," who conveys a 
suggestion of inner character by picturing the bodily 

She was a blooming lass of fresh eighteen, plump as a part- 
ridge, ripe and melting and rosy-cheeked as one of her father's 

She was a splendidly feminine girl, as wholesome as a Novem- 
ber pippin, and no more mysterious than a window-pane. 

Dickens's concrete and unified description of Mr. Peck- 
sniff, in Martin Chuzzlewit, is a masterpiece. See how 
the man's bodily appearance inevitably reveals his char- 
acter : 

His very throat was moral. You saw a good deal of it. You 
looked over a very low fence of white cravat (whereof no man 
had ever beheld the tie, for he fastened it behind), and there it 
lay, a valley between two jutting heights of collar, serene and 
whiskerless before you. It seemed to say, on the part of Mr. 
Pecksniff, "There is no deception, ladies and gentlemen, all is 
peace, a holy calm pervades me." So did his hair, just grizzled 
with an iron gray, which was all brushed off his forehead, and 
stood bolt upright, or slightly drooped in kindred action with 
his heavy eyelids. So did his person, which was sleek though 
free from corpulency. So did his manner, which was soft and 
oily. In a word, even his plain black suit, and state of widower, 
and dangling double eye-glass, all tended to the same purpose, and 
cried aloud, " Behold the moral Pecksniff ! " 

Here are three specimens of suggestive physical de- 
scription, mingled with suggestive delineation of char- 
acter — taken also from Dickens : 

In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. 14 
14 Christmas Carol. 


Small, shining, neat, methodical, and buxom was Miss Peecher ; 
cherry-cheeked and tuneful of voice. A little pin-cushion, a 
little housewife, a little book, a little work-box, a little set of 
tables and weights and measures, and a little woman all in one. 
She could write a little essay on any subject, exactly a slate 
long, beginning at the left-hand top of one side and ending at 
the right-hand bottom of the other, and the essay should be 
strictly according to rule. 15 

Mrs. Gradgrind, a little, thin, white, pink-eyed bundle of 
shawls, of surpassing feebleness, mental and bodily ; who was 
always taking physic without any effect, and who, whenever she 
showed a symptom of coming to life, was invariably stunned by 
some weighty piece of fact tumbling on her. 16 

This is a more modern specimen of suggestive phys- 
ical description : 

Colonel Marigold was a rosy cherub with a white chinwhisker. 
He carried his sixty years with a slight soldierly limp, and was 
forever opening his china-blue eyes in mild astonishment. 

(b) Character analysis is really a form of description 
which deals with the unseen, just as description occu- 
pies itself more fully with the seen, though the latter also 
often looks beneath the surface. Naturally, such simple 
statements as, " Silas Hornberger was a hard-fisted old 
sinner," can scarcely be regarded as profoundly analyt- 
ical, yet it requires a direct kind of analysis to arrive at 
even the simplest and most obvious character. From 
such elementary though effective characterization we 
ascend to more indirect delineation, such as the follow- 
ing, which is mingled with dialogue. The two para- 
graphs are a hundred words apart in the story. 

15 Our Mutual Friend. 

16 Hard Times. 


Angie tipped up the slop-pail. " Yes," she said, without deceit 
— she always, by nature of her temperament, spoke her mind 
quite plainly — "but I'm a-goin' to git all my hard work done 
up t' onct afore I stop." 

Angie colored. The change for her raisins went down sharply 
on the counter. Her little old chin went up into the air. 
" Well," she said, tartly, " I guess ye don't need to come if 
ye don't want to ! " 1T 

The longer short-stories, like the best of Mr. James's, 
afford room for more profound analysis, though now and 
then we find an instance of vivisection at once brilliant 
and condensed. 18 Like the compact statement of an in- 
tricate problem, the crystalline result does not disclose 
the difficult processes involved. 

Men as they pass prefer action to analysis, because it 
seems more real. What they experience makes a more 
immediate appeal to them than what they merely think 
about; but when psychological analysis does lay hold, 
it fastens its grip firmly, until reflection gradually pro- 
duces the effect of reality. 

(c) The dramatic method delineates character by 
speech 19 and action — at once the most difficult and most 
effective combination of all literary devices. This is the 
method of Jesus in the Parables, which never consider 
the details of personal appearance except symbolically. 
If, as Stevenson has said, " drama is the poetry of con- 
duct," the near approach to the dramatic form in dia- 

17 The Tea Party, Muriel Campbell Dyar, Harper's, Jan., 1908. 

18 See the opening paragraphs of Maupassant's The Necklace, 
reproduced in full, Part. Ill, chap. iv. 

19 The next chapter entire is given to a discussion of Dialogue. 


logue and action adds life as well as beauty to the short- 
story. The same authority has said: 

" This, then, is the plastic part of literature : to em- 
body character, thought, or emotion in some act or at- 
titude that shall be remarkably striking to the mind's 
eye. This is the highest and hardest thing to do in 
words; the thing which, once accomplished, equally de- 
lights the schoolboy and the sage, and makes, in its own 
right, this quality of epics. It is one thing to remark 
and dissect, with the most cutting logic, the complica- 
tions of life, and of the human spirit; it is quite another 
to give them body and blood in the story of Ajax or 
Hamlet. The first is literature, but the second is some- 
thing besides, for it is likewise art. . . . 

" Readers cannot fail to have remarked that what an 
author tells us of the beauty or the charm of his crea- 
tures goes for naught; that we know instantly better; 
that the heroine cannot open her mouth but what, all 
in a moment, the fine phrases of preparation fall from 
her like the robes of Cinderella, and she stands before 
us as a poor, ugly, sickly wench, or perhaps a strapping 
market-woman." 20 

To make characterization, speech, and action harmonize 
so as to preserve the unity of the character is of no 
small moment in fiction. Speech and action, each by it- 
self, often disclose too much or too little — as, truly, 
they will often play us false together in daily life. 

20 A Gossip on a Novel of Dumas'. 


3. Specific Means of Characterization 

To enter fully into all the devices employed by literary 
artists to delineate character would consume a volume. 
Four, however, require brief mention. 

(a) The naming of characters is of as great im- 
portance in the short-story as in the novel. Names 
should be fitting. Phyllis ought not to weigh two hun- 
dred, nor ought Tommy to commit suicide. Luther 
must not be a burglar, Maud a washerwoman, nor John 
spout tepid romance. The wrong surname will handi- 
cap a character as surely as the wrong pair of hands. 
Hardscrabble does not fit the philanthropist any more 
than Tinker suggests the polished diplomat, or Darna- 
way the clergyman. 

And yet, certain contrasts and side-lights on charac- 
ters are secured by merely naming them incongruously. 
If Phyllis does weigh two-hundred, and if Maud is a 
washerwoman, it must be for humor's sake, for con- 
trast, or for some such reason as is given by " Mark 
Twain " in " The $30,000 Bequest " when he argues 
that the bookkeeper's wife, Electra, and her daughter, 
Clytemnestra, furnished direct proof of a strain of 
romance in the family by reason of the names they 

There are fashions in names as in flounces and I sup- 
pose they must invade fiction as they do drawing-rooms, 
but Mary will always symbolize steady purity, Nancy 
a coquettish fly-away, Jerry a worthy solid-head, Wal- 
ter impeccable virtue, Miriam high-souled idealism, Mar- 


tha lowly service, and Jasper a prig — all subject to the 
exceptions of real life, where there is even more mis- 
naming than in fiction. 

(b) Physiological marks, as hinted in a preceding sec- 
tion, are of emphatic value in character portrayal. Here 
we see physical description serving the ends of charac- 
terization. Darnaway, in Stevenson's Merry Men, was 
" a sour, small, bilious man, with a long face and very- 
dark eyes." The physical everywhere discloses and even 
limits the mental, moral and spiritual. Darwin has told 
us that quickened emotions often begin to manifest them- 
selves in quick breathing. We know that, but forget to 
put the knowledge to use. Learn to interpret the broad 
face, the small mouth, the deepset eyes, the hiked-up 
shoulders, the stubby fingers, the high cheek-bones, the 
bristly hair, and a hundred other physical marks, just 
as you already read the more commonly understood 
shambling gait, loose jowl, and low forehead. Study, 
too, the effect of a combination of physical traits, and 
learn that one strong point in physiognomy may some- 
times quite offset a number of weak ones — and con- 

(c) Dress and occupations are also suggestive of 
character, though there is more room for their descrip- 
tion in the novel than in the short-story. When we 
learn that Rip Van Winkle's children are ragged it im- 
presses us with his easy ways more than to read that 
he himself is out at elbows. His devotion to hunting 
while his family is in want confirms the indictment. 

Balzac combines several of the foregoing elements in 


this description of Monsieur Regnault, the notary, in 
" La Grande Breteche " : 

Suddenly I saw a tall slender man, -dressed in black, with his 
hat in his hand, who entered the room like a ram ready to rush 
at his rival, disclosing a retreating forehead, a small pointed 
head, and a pale face, not unlike a glass of dirty water. You 
would have said that he was the doorkeeper of some minister. 
He wore an old coat, threadbare at the seams; but he had a 
diamond in his shirt-frill and gold rings in his ears. 

(d) Personality is the last element to be considered, 
but of primary importance, for the persons of the 
story often exhibit strong personal characteristics of 
mind, morals and heart, in addition to their national, sec- 
tional, professional, or other nonindividual traits. 
There are two main kinds of persons in fiction: those 
whose characters do not change, but whose natures are 
disclosed by the story (like Lady Macbeth) ; and those 
whose characters do undergo a change, whether for bet- 
ter or for worse (like Tess). The former are sometimes 
called static characters, and the latter, dynamic. Kip- 
ling's Mulvaney is static, Stevenson's Markheim is dy- 

Outward action is often preceded by struggle of soul, 
marking character transformation. Sometimes, as with 
Hester Prynrie in The Scarlet Letter, that struggle is 
with the lower nature, striving more and more effectively 
to rise above it. Sometimes the battle is with the higher 
nature, deterioration being the result, as in Tito Melema, 
of Romola. Again the war is waged with external 
forces, a? in Hamlet's bitter problem of how to do justice 


in a case which involved his own mother. But somehow, 
always, character-change must involve, suggest, or dis- 
close, a force big enough to account for the result. It is 
ridiculous for an author to transform a character by 
sheer hocus-pocus, or suddenly attribute a momentous 
deed, good or bad, to a character whose qualities all 
point the other way. 

Critical times in the action fittingly coincide with moral 
crises in the characters. Remember that some incidents 
reveal character, while some affect character. Ask these 
questions : Could such a woman, let us say, being al- 
together such as she is, do such a deed as you propose 
to make her do? Next, would she do it? Finally, can 
no more effective thing be devised ? Study " The Out- 
casts of Poker Flat " and see how character transforma- 
tion is satisfactorily accounted for. 



1. Selecting the Characters 

(a) Character Study 

(b) Principles of Selection 

2. Number and Relation of Characters 

3. Character Classes 

(a) Typical 

(b) Personal 

(c) Composite 

4. Relation of Characters to Action and Setting 

5. Author's Attitude Toward His Characters 


I. Effect to be Attained 


General Methods of Characterisation 

(a) Description 

(1) Direct 

(2) Indirect 

(3) Suggestive 

(b) Character Analysis 

(c) Dramatic Method 

Specific Means of Characterization 

(a) Naming of Characters 

(b) Physiological Marks 

(c) Dress 

(d) Personality 


1. Make a list of characters you have met who are interest- 
ing enough to be delineated in short-stories. Give a sentence 
or two to each to set forth their characteristics. 

2. Specifically state how ycu would modify their everyday 
characteristics for the purposes of fiction. 

3. Make a composite characterization by combining the 
traits of two or more. 

4. Make complete, compressed notes of the life and charac- 
teristics of one character in the list (question 1), after the man- 
ner of Turgenieff. 

5. Follow TurgeniefFs method by conceiving a character and 
building a plot around his personality. 

6. After you have decided on a character worth character- 
izing in a short-story, trace in writing the chain of ideas by 
which the conception arose and developed in your mind. 

7. Select two short-stories in which character-drawing is 
especially well done, giving reasons for your opinion. 

Note: The instructor may wish to include character-novels in 
this assignment. 

8. Make a study of several late issues of at least four promi- 
nent magazines and say what types of character-stories they 


9. In the manner of the schedule on page 224, list the actually 
individualized characters in four well-known short-stories. 

10. Write a character-story with careful attention to the rela- 
tion of the characters to the foreground, middle-distance, and 

11. Make a list of such characteristic national (French, etc.), 
sectional (Northwestern, etc.), class, professional, and local traits 
as could be embodied in fiction. 

12. Write a character-story in the joint typical-individual 

13. What do you understand by a character that is (a) sim- 
ple, (b) complex, (c) inconsistent? 

14. Make a list of worn-out, conventional characters often 
seen in fiction. 

15. Outline a character and a setting (a) in harmony, (b) 
in contrast, with each other. 

16. Delineate a character by direct description, without the 
use of dialogue. 

17. Delineate the same character by suggestion. 

18. Present pictures of the following moods: (a) a girl 
struggling to retain faith in her college chum; (b) a youth de- 
ciding to commit his first crime; (c) an old man just dismissed 
from a " life-long " position. 

19. Invent at least five other such situations involving char- 
acter changes. 

20. (a) Criticise the names in any short-story you please; 
(b) select a short-story in which the characters are well-named, 
and show why. 

21. Take the portrait of some person unknown to you and 
try to read the character from the face, bearing, and dress. 

22. Make a list of prominent physical traits (a squint for 
one), saying what they mean to you. For example, begin with 
faces which suggest animals, without necessarily revealing any- 
thing bestial. 

23. Suggestively describe the dress of ten different characters, 
differentiating them according to occupations, nationality, class, 
morals, etc. 

24. Describe in your favorite way, but as compactly as pos- 
sible, the following characters: (a) a romantic blunderer; (b) 


two characters in marked contrast; (c) a lover of music who 
fondly believes he can sing — but can't; (d) a serious man who 
is always mistaken for a jester; (e) a woman who loves to 
settle difficulties but who succeeds only in making things worse. 

Note: In her elementary but suggestive little volume, The 
Story-Teller's Art, p. 43, Miss Charity Dye says that character 
may be studied: 

" 1. By its innate tendencies, or its inner promptings, 

independent of any external influence. 
"2. By its environment, or surroundings, and the way 
in which it has overcome them or been over- 
come by them. 
" 3. In the light of heredity, or inherited traits. 
" 4. By its manifestations of willing, thinking, feeling. 
"5. By its achievements, or what it has accomplished 
in the light of its effort and opportunity, and 
by the development it makes. 
"6. By noting all that a character says and does, all 
that is said and done to him, and all that is 
said about him. 
"7. By noting the dominant motive of his life, whether 
it be love, hate, revenge, a sense of duty, 
selfishness, or forgiveness. 
"8. A character may be studied by putting one's self in 
another's place; by being the apple-woman, the 
newsboy, the bootblack for a time, and look- 
ing at life through their eyes. Be a beggar, a 
millionaire, a master, or a slave, and imagine 
what you would do in each situation." 
From among these methods the instructor may select such as 
will make satisfactory assignments for (a) character study, (b) 
character delineation, 



The use of quotation marks does not convert a passage into 
dialogue. — Arlo Bates, Talks on Writing English. 

It is not necessary to say that a woman is a snarling, grumpy 
person. Bring in the old lady and let her snarl. — Anonymous. 

If in the characters is involved the profounder fibre of the 
story, from the management of the dialogue comes largely its 
more buoyant and popular effect. Uncritical readers — whose 
preferences, in fact, ought to be consulted — like a story "with 
lots of conversation in it." The dialogue serves, as it were, to 
aerate the movement, which else might grow ponderous and 
slow. In the give and take of conversation, too, character itself 
appears, to speak for itself; and many accessory and descriptive 
elements slip in lightly and unobtrusively in the words that are 
said. And through it all is traceable the forward movement and 
the approaching end or crisis. — J. F. Genung, The Working 
Principles of Rhetoric. 

Conversation belongs to the short-story because it be- 
longs to life. There have been good short-stories with- 
out dialogue, as there are brilliant folk who are deprived 
of speech, but happily both are exceptions. The normal, 
cheerful mind loves speech, and since the short-story is 
sought after mainly for diversion, the reader will turn 
in his lighter moods to the conversational short-story, 
just as for sheer recreation he will prefer the rapid-fire 



dialogue of the elder Dumas 1 to the heavier descriptive 
passages of Scott. 

The beginner does not usually put much conversa- 
tion into his fiction, for conversation is hard to write. 
He reasons that little dialogue is better than poor dia- 
logue ; and so it is. Only, when it comes to that pass, why 
write at all ? Good conversation is a vital element in the 
story-teller's art, and its mastery often spells success. The 
Fifteenth Idyll of Theocritus depicts the " smart " life 
of Alexandria in the third century B. C. with such sure 
and swift conversational strokes that it still lives as a 
classic. Nowadays it is difficult to sell a story whose 
long paragraphs of unbroken description and explana- 
tion would, the editor feels, surely repel the casual 
buyer. A page of dialogue attracts the eye, and so gives 
the author a chance to please the mind. 

1. The Proportion of Dialogue 

It will be interesting to examine the following table 
of ten more or less famous short-storieSj selected quite 
at random from American, British and French authors, 
covering a period of about seventy-five years. Some one 
might profitably compute the proportion of conversation 
in, say, five hundred representative short-stories, classi- 
fying them as to type, and then give us the figures. 
While no writer would recognize any such result as con- 

1 " It [Dumas' Dialogue] can unfold action, character, emo- 
tion, description, and stage directions, and it can make all these 
seem natural even when they are most extravagant, convincing 
when they are most false," — Horne, The Technique of the Novel, 
P- 257. 


stituting a standard for him, it would at least tell us 
something definite as to good usage. 



"The Outcasts of Poker Flat," Bret Harte n per cent 

"The Diamond Lens," Fitz- James O'Brien 13 " " 

"The Ambitious Guest," Nathaniel Hawthorne.... 30 " " 

" Mrs. Protheroe," Booth Tarkington 38 " " 

" A Lodging for the Night," Robert Louis Stevenson 39 " " 

"Many Waters," Margaret Deland 43 " " 

"A Venus of the Fields," "Georg Schock" 45 " " 

"Without Benefit of Clergy," Rudyard Kipling.... 54 " " 

" La Grande Breteche," Honore de Balzac 55 " " 

" The Gold Bug," Edgar Allan Poe 64 " " 

Average proportion of conversation 39 " " 

It has been asserted 2 that present-day usage tends to 
the dialogue form more than did the practice of Poe and 
Hawthorne. I doubt this conclusion, especially if the 
fictions of these masters be compared with those of our 
best living story-writers. The lighter the story the 
stronger the swing toward the dialogic method, so the 
statement may be true of stories of this type; but the 
short-story of depth, yesterday, to-day, and always, will 
not average fifty per cent, conversation. As an English 
expert, Mr. Frederic Wedmore, has pointed out, 3 the 
writer is unwise to deny himself the freedom of the pure 
dramatic form when he chooses to tell a story wholly 
in dialogue. He simply makes his work more difficult 
and, at the same time, less effective. Though the drama 

2 Barrett, Short Story Writing, p. 107; Albright, The Short- 
Story, p. 146. 

3 North American Review, 43:410. 


may be studied with much profit by the writer of short- 
stories, the two types are likely to remain distinct. 

2. The Office of Dialogue 

There is no narrative effect which speech cannot com- 
pass, but it must never be introduced for its own sake. 
Its office is to tell the story, and this it does by several 
means, one of the chief of which is : 

(a) The revelation of human character. Just as hu- 
man interest is the heart of narrative, so human speech 
is its most vivid expression. In everyday life we do 
not know a man until we have heard him speak. Then 
our first impressions are either confirmed, modified, or 
totally upset. To adapt Dr. Talmage's pun, many a man, 
in life as in fiction, puts his foot in it as soon as he opens 
his mouth. The worth of many another is perceived 
only when he speaks. 

The more prominent the character in the story, the 
more significant must be his every word. Figures in 
the middle-distance and the background may talk more 
or less alike, but the leading persons must utter every 
word " in character/' They must be so individual that 
the only words they could speak are just the ones they 
do speak. And they must preserve this personality con- 
sistently — so consistently that throughout the whole 
narrative the reader will recognize their language, feel- 
ings, thoughts, likes and dislikes, in fact their entire in- 
dividuality, as being distinct from their fellow charac- 
ters. Many a story puts the words of men into the 


mouths of babes, labels women as wise yet makes them 
spout twaddle, and so hopelessly confuses the reader 
that he could not, if he cared to try, discover who is 
speaking. No one ever thus confused the words of 
Mrs. Gamp with those of any other participant in the 
dialogue, nor imputed the sentiments of Sam Weller to 
some one else. They are always delightfully them- 

The trouble just here is that too many writers thrust 
their own personalities into their stories. Their char- 
acters are simply lay figures, or at best, made-up actors, 
masquerading as real persons. Their whole business in 
the story is to declaim their author's views. No error 
could be more egregious. If its source is ignorance, it 
should be enlightened; if it is vanity, the rejection-slip 
may help to puncture it. To be convincing, a fictional 
character must be somebody, not anybody. His person- 
ality and his actions must be of one piece, and his talk 
cut from the same cloth. But you must know your cloth, 
its size and its texture. So long as writers persist in 
choosing their characters from walks of life of which 
they know little or nothing, so long will their dialogue 
lack individuality. 

The moderns have taken big strides ahead in this re- 
spect. Even Poe put uniformly stilted speech into the 
mouths of his characters, while Hawthorne offended 
similarly. Dickens was the great modern innovator here, 
Kipling being the present-day master. " Wee Willie 
Winkie " thinks as a child, and his speech is of a kind 
with his baby thought. Mulvaney, Ortheris and Lea- 


royd never look at things from quite the same view-point, 
and so we seldom need a " said Mulvaney " to tell us 
who says what. 

Now, this matter is worth study. The average ama- 
teur does not individualize the speech of his characters, 
and the best story- writers always do. And there you 
have a tremendous difference. 

It is worth while inquiring what things in actual life 
vividly color a man's manner of speech — I mean, influ- 
ence his choice and arrangement of words and his man- 
ner of utterance. They are five : his antecedents (includ- 
ing habits of speech acquired in childhood), his charac- 
ter (subtly influencing all he says and does), his motives 
(both general and particular), his present emotion, and 
his environment (including the influence of the person- 
alities about him). Each of these forces must be 
weighed by the author when he writes dialogue, as judi- 
cially as the judge weighs the conditioning antecedents, 
character motives, moods and circumstances of a de- 

See how utterly Pecksniffian are all the words of that 
arch bluffer, Mr. Pecksniff. 4 His words and his char- 
acter coincide. 

" Why, the truth is, my dear," said Mr. Pecksniff, smiling upon 
his assembled kindred, "that I am at a loss for a word. The 
name of those fabulous animals (pagan, I regret to say) who 
used to sing in the water, has quite escaped me." 

Mr. George Chuzzlewit suggested " Swans." 

" No," said Mr. Pecksniff. " Not swans. Very like swans, 
too. Thank you." 

* Martin Chuzzlewit, Charles Dickens. 


The nephew with the outline of a countenance, speaking for 
the first and last time on that occasion, propounded " Oysters." 

" No," said Mr. Pecksniff, with his own peculiar urbanity, 
"nor oysters. But by no means unlike oysters; a very excellent 
idea; thank you, my dear sir, very much. Wait! Sirens. Dear 
me! Sirens, of course." 

Dickens has given us another interesting humbug, Mr. 
Wegg, whose speech could no more be mistaken for that 
of dear old Mr. Boffin, to whom he was engaged to read 
aloud of evenings, than it could be confused with the 
words of the historian he read. 

Wegg at length arrives at " Boffin's Bower," and is 
introduced to Mrs. Boffin. On a table lie the eight vol- 
umes of Gibbon in red and gold bindings, with a " pur- 
ple ribbon in each volume to keep the place where 
leave off." After indulging in a meat-pie and a swig, 
Mr. Wegg settles down to his task. 

" Hem ! " began Wegg. " This, Mr. Boffin and Lady, is the 
first chapter of the first wollume of the Decline and Fall Off — " 
here he looked hard at the book and stopped. 

"What's the matter, Wegg?" 

" Why it comes to my mind, do you know, sir," said Wegg, 
with an air of insinuating frankness (having first again looked 
hard at the book), "that you made a little mistake this morn- 
ing, which I had meant to set you right in, only something put 
it out of my head. I think you said Rooshan Empire, sir?" 

"It is Rooshan; ain't it, Wegg?" 

" No, sir. Roman. Roman." 

"What's the difference, Wegg?" 

" The difference, sir ? " Mr. Wegg was faltering and in danger 
of breaking down, when a bright thought flashed upon him. 
"The difference, sir? There you place me in a difficulty, Mr. 
Boffin. Suffice it to observe that the difference is best postponed 


to some other occasion when Mrs. Boffin does not honor us 
with her company. In Mrs. Boffin's presence, sir, we had better 
drop it." 

It appears, then, that the sense of reality in dialogue 
will be produced if the characters possess individuality 
and speak out their true selves. A second consideration is 
scarcely less important : 

(b) Dialogue must bring out the incidents, and this it 
•.must do by harmonizing with them. Will a man make 
long speeches in a crisis? Will a time of hurried action 
admit of much speech at all ? If the one character in the 
dialogue would not have time to listen to the other's 
windy words, neither will your readers. Ask yourself 
what is natural — though not what is commonplace — in 
the circumstances, for circumstances alter speeches. 

I may merely touch upon two other functions of con- 
versation in fiction, both deserving of fuller treatment. 

(c) Dialogue is used to convey the setting. See how 
in the extracts cited on pp. 128-9 this effect is secured; 
and the same device is often used not only in the intro- 
duction but throughout the story. 

(d) The entire action, the incidents, the story itself, 
may be told quite as effectively by dialogue as by de- 
scription, and usually with much more life and interest- 
ing effect. 

3. The Subject-matter of Dialogue 

The limits of dialogic subject-matter are, all that is 
strictly contributory to the story. No retailing of curious 


information, no witty but irrelevant epigrams, no ar- 
gumentation for its own sake, no pretty talk that leads 
nowhither, no moral preachment, no impassioned invec- 
tive, no excursions into inviting by-paths — not one word, 
in short, that does not urge on the action to its climax. 

All these liberties we allow to genius at its best, be- 
cause the story may be so fascinating that it can carry 
a load of extraneous comment and still be counted as 
well-told — like Kipling's Mulvaney stories ; or it may 
be so nearly a sketch that the tone really demands a dis- 
cursive style — like Hearn's " Chita " and Stevenson's 
" Will O' the Mill." Such literary privileges, however, 
are not won by beginners. 

On this subject there are some sound words in An- 
thony Trollope's Autobiography: 

" The unconscious critical acumen of a reader is both 
just and severe. When a long dialogue on extraneous 
matter reaches his mind, he at once feels that he is being 
cheated into taking something that he did not bargain to 
accept — he does not at that moment require politics or 
philosophy, but he wants a story. He will not, perhaps, 
be able to say in so many words that at some point the 
dialogue has deviated from the story ; but when it does, 
he will feel it." 5 

4. The Manner of Dialogue 

Short-story dialogue must be suggestive, not exhaus- 
tive. The dialogue of the short-story is not that of the 

'Vol. H, p. 58. 


novel. The former can no more take time fully to re- 
produce the small talk of a ball-room or of a salon than 
it can afford space for the minute description of my 
lady's gown. No, compression, always compression, and 
a high degree of selection, are what the yarn-spinner 
must set ever before his mind's eye. What is omitted 
is quite as important as what is reported. A whole his- 
tory must be hinted in a sentence, processes of arriving at 
conclusions struck off in an epigram, the heart of a sen- 
timent packed into a phrase. True, speech will often be 
idealized — the lofty mood will be symbolized by words 
more lofty than those of real life; the passionate hour 
will demand an intensity and compactness of language 
rarely heard among real folk. But be careful not to 
overdo this permissible exaggeration. 

Conversation is a lost art — except in fiction, and 
there it is usually more flippant than brilliant. The 
trouble is that, in book and in life, talk is likely to be- 
come stilted the moment the writer or the talker be- 
comes self-conscious. Many a writer suggests Tom 
Birch, of whom Samuel Johnson said, " He is as brisk as 
a bee in conversation; but no sooner does he take a pen 
in his hand than it becomes a torpedo to him, and be- 
numbs all his faculties." Colloquial speech is precisely 
what dialogue needs — the short, free, unconscious, rap- 
idly shifting speech of everyday life ; everyday, that is, in 
manner, but selected and exceptional in matter. It is 
well for the literary person to deplore the admitted de- 
cadence in the tone and quality of our social converse, for 
it is painfully evident to the observing, but the. ghort- 


story must not be turned into a text-book for use in the 
university conversation course, once proposed half laugh- 
ingly by Professor A. S. Hill. The meaty talk of Dr. 
North and His Friends 6 needs the desiccation provided 
by The Dolly Dialogues 7 and " The First Hurdle." 8 
Let it be repeated: dialogue reports characters in their 
perfectly representative, typical, characteristic moods. 
Therefore their speech must show not so much what they 
say, as what they are. 

Of course this brings up the whole question of real- 
ism, which I need not again discuss. Much that has been 
said about its limitations in general 9 may be applied par- 
ticularly to the speaking character. His words must be 
truer to ideal truth than to actual talk. To reproduce 
even the most brilliant conversation just as we have it 
would result in disappointment. The pivotal and sug- 
gestive speeches of your characters are what you must 
set down so that every word may add some significance 
to the portrayal. How else should character exhibit in- 
dividuality? Suppose that all the people in a story were 
to utter such equally brilliant epigrams as (it is safer 
to draw these illustrations from novels) they do in parts 
of Ellen Thoraeycroft Fowler's Concerning Isabel Car- 
naby, and in Bulwer's Parisians; the effect would be as 
unconvincing as any other lot of unvaried fireworks. 
But, really, there is little danger here. There is greater 
fear of perpetrating the unrelieved dulness of absolute 

6 S. Weir Mitchell. 

7 Anthony Hope. 

8 A short-story by John Reed Scott. 
? See p. 64. 


fidelity to conversational reality. Conversation must be 
neither too subtle nor too gross, too learned nor too silly, 
too involved nor too simple. It must idealize the actual 
speech of men in so far as to discard both the prosings 
of heavy virtue and the blatancies of flippant vulgarity 
while typifying both most deftly. 

The moulds in which conversation is cast are of forms 
•j& various as those of everyday speech, but the manner of 
reporting them requires some art. 

Do not think it necessary to put " he saids " after every 
remark made by a character. So long as without them 
the reader understands clearly and easily just who is 
speaking, such additions hinder rather than help dia- 
logue. But when you do add the explanatory verbs, use 
some ingenuity in getting away from the conventional 
forms. Do not discriminate against such good expres- 
sions as " he acquiesced," " admitted/' " argued," 
" asked," " assented," " boasted," " called," " cau- 
tioned," "chuckled," "corrected," "cried," "croaked," 
"crowed," "declared," "drawled," "droned," "ejacu- 
lated," " emended/' " enjoined," " enumerated," " ex- 
claimed," " exploded," " flashed," " frowned," " gasped," 
"growled," "grumbled," "grunted," "hinted," "in- 
quired," " insinuated," " intimated," " jeered," " jested," 
" laughed," " leered," " maundered," " mumbled," " nod- 
ded," " opined," " pronounced," " puffed," " questioned," 
" rejoined," " retorted," " returned," " simpered," 
" snarled," " sneered," " snickered," " stammered," " stip- 
ulated," " stormed," " suggested," " urged," " volun- 
teered," " wondered," " yelled," — and a whole dictionary- 


ful besides, 10 each precisely suited to the shade of mood 
to be depicted. 

Perhaps it should go without saying that the speeches 
in dialogue should be brief — yet it doesn't. It will 
pay to remember that the old man and the boy who 
" ca'mly drinked and jawed " took sips between remarks. 

The baldly " leading question," introduced palpably to 
help a character to tell some necessary bit of information, 
is a practice too amateurish to need more than this sin- 
gle word of warning. 1 

A useful conversational device is to make comment 
both before and at the end of the speech. Either alone 
is the more common form. 

Nora rose, trembling like a leaf (trite). "Ye bought me 
Mike's vote, ye say? Ye bought it? Oh, Misther Dale, it isn't 
thrue, is it ? Say it isn't. Oh, say it isn't ! " The rising wail 
of a breaking heart spoke in her cry. 

Sometimes the author will interrupt the speech of a 
character to interject an explanation — a dangerous de- 
vice if the interruption is either long or abrupt. In this 
example the method is well handled: 

John Gearing was at her side in an instant. " My poor little 
girl," he murmured, lifting her with all possible gentleness, " are 
you much hurt ? " 

The unfinished sentence is often used with good effect : 

"At all events I have not sprained my ankle/' said the girl 
with a faint laugh. " But I slipped once before to-day, and — " 

10 See exercises at the close of this chapter. 


The effect of hesitating speech produced by the dash 
is still another emotional device in dialogue: 

" They will search for us — certainly, and find us ? " 

" If they know — that is, if you — if — I must tell them that I 

took the spool to — to find you, I could not face them — I could 

not bear it ! " 

The " expressive pause " in dialogue is indicated either 
explicitly, as: 

"I really wonder," murmured Betty. Then, after a pause, "I 
suppose you are right, after all." 

Or by the use of the dash : 

" I see no other alternative," admitted Buxton. " Either you 
meet the note on Monday or — The Tombs." 

The choice of sentence-forms is an important expedi- 
ent in dialogue. The short, sharp, rapid sentence fits 
in with a mood quite different from that suggested by 
the easy-flowing long sentence. The flippant youth 
would hardly speak in the periodic sentence, which rises 
in power by suspending its full meaning until its close. 11 
No more would the dignified judge habitually use 
loose sentences — the balanced form would more clearly 
suggest the judicial mind. Yet no one would use one 
form to the exclusion of others. Remember that in con- 
versation even the most cultivated talk colloquially. 

Suiting the sound to the sense is a capital conversa- 
tional expedient. Note these examples: 

11 For sentence- forms see Appendix G. 


"Janet!" The loud, jarring voice, etc. 

" Urn ! " he purred, softly stroking the hat in his hand, " we 
shall see, we shall see ! " 

The use of dialect in dialogue has aroused a furor of 
discussion. Some editors hold the dialect story as ta- 
boo, others allow a few dialect passages, while a few 
discriminate against it not at all. All are agreed, how- 
ever, upon one point: dialect must never be used solely 
for its own sake. 

As local color, the vernacular of the New England 
villager, the Maine woodsman, the Southern " cracker," 
the negro, the habitant, the cow-puncher, the Creole, and 
all the rich and varied types of American life, require 
the use of dialect in moderation. But when the spelling 
is altered to no purpose by such nonsensical perversions 
as " iz," " sur," " sez," " bizness," " peeple," the alleged 
dialect becomes a nuisance. The short-story that needs 
a glossary will go down to posterity in manuscript form. 

Another abuse of dialect is to over-emphasize charac- 
teristics of speech — such as a college man's slang or a 
broker's technical talk — so as to produce an uninten- 
tional caricature. 

The language of child-life offers peculiar pitfalls for 
the fictionist. As an experiment, see in how many differ- 
ent ways you can spell a child's pronunciation of " just 
the same." In fact, all our common speech is full of 
softenings and elisions, but it would not do to be faith- 
ful to them all in reporting conversation. Each calling, 
each stratum of society, has its vernacular, much to the 
detriment, or much to the enrichment, of our English — 


according to how you look at it. Just how much of this 
colloquial, sporting, slang, and " patter " speech you will 
use in your writing must depend upon your good sense. 
Four things, however, you will want to avoid : obscurity 
of meaning, inconsistency of spelling, making the dialect 
hard to read, and the use of too much dialect. 

In writing stories foreign in setting, or in depicting 
the speech of foreigners when they would naturally use 
their own language in whole or in part, have a care as 
to introducing foreign words and expressions. But re- 
member also that certain idioms are especially awkward 
and strained when done into English. The use of Mon- 
sieur and Madame and Mademoiselle is of course de- 
sirable, and perhaps the occasional use of voila, n'est ce 
pas y and the like; but, on the whole, it is more effective 
to salt the speech with a foreign savor by the literal trans- 
lation of such quaint idioms as are at once characteristic 
and pleasing, in the manner of the following extract : 12 

Three nights later Gilbert Hannaway sat at dinner in one of 
the most famous restaurants of Paris. His companion — he had 
many friends on that side of the channel — touched him on the 

" My dear Gilbert," she said, " you ask me to point out to you 
what I should recognize as the real Parisian type, the absolutely 
smart woman. Look ! I show her to you. There ! The girl in 
the black dress, and the hat with white feathers. Believe me, 
that is the last thing which Paris can show you. Her shoes, 
her jewels, her furs, the cut of that long jacket, the little dog 
she has under her arm, with the gold collar — they are all of 
the moment, the latest thing. T/here is your type for you." 

12 Passers-By, Anthony Partridge, Cosmopolitan, Oct., 1908. 
Somewhat in contrast is Thackeray's method in The Ballad of 


A somewhat similar use of idiom as dialect is illus- 
trated by the following passage from " The County 
Seat/' Elsie Singmaster's Pennsylvania German story : 13 

A little farther on he stopped at the opening of a narrow 

" It is here where we shall live." 

" I see where," screamed little Ollie. 

Their goods were being unloaded before the door of a tiny 
frame house. 

"I too," echoed Louisa. 

Oliver unlocked the door and let them in. 

" It is not a nice house," said Louisa. 

" It is a nice house," reproved her mother sharply. " It is while 
it is not yet fixed up that it don't look so fine." Then she waved 
back her husband, who came into the room with a roll of carpet 
in his arms. "Don't bring it in yet. Did you think I should 
put down carpet when the house is not yet cleaned?" 

" But I must go Mondays to work, and Sundays it is no work- 
ing, and I can only help to-day and to-morrow." 

Susannah looked at him. 

" Do you mean I should put down the carpets before it is 
everything washed up ? " she asked. 

" No," he answered, meekly. " But you shall wash this room 
first, and then I can move the things right aways in." 

" Begin at the bottom to wash the house ! " gasped Susannah. 
"And go up! I guess not. I begin at the top, like always." 

She went upstairs and looked about her. She could not sup- 
press an exclamation of horror. Then she went to the head of 
the stairway. 

"You shall just come up once and see how dirty it is here," 
she called. " It will be dinner till I make the garret done." 

"But the things? Shall they stand all the time out?" 

"You can watch' them so it don't anybody carry anything 
off," she replied. "I — " The rest of her sentence was lost in 
the sound of a stiff scrubbing-brush, pushed swiftly across rough 

13 Atlantic, May, 1908. 




1. Proportion of Dialogue 

2. Its Office 

(a) Revelation of Character 
(6) To Bring Out the Incidents 

(c) To Convey Setting 

(d) To Develop the Entire Action 

3. Subject Matter 

4. Manner 


Sentence Forms 


1. Select from some magazine a short-story containing little 
dialogue and rewrite it, substituting dialogue wherever possible. 

2. Examine the short-stories in a magazine of high quality 
and make a list of the excellencies and the faults you may dis- 
cover in the conversations. 

3. Take one scene of a play and rewrite it in short-story 

4. Rewrite in dramatic form one of your previous short- 
stories, conveying all the facts by dialogue, excepting only stage- 
directions and outlines of scenes. 

5. Write a brief character sketch, or short-story, relying 
mainly upon conversation to display character. 

6. Write a minute report of the most interesting actual 
conversation you can recall having heard, leaving wide space 
between the lines. 

7. Without rewriting, edit the conversation in the foregoing 
so that it might be included in a short-story. 

8. Criticise the dialect in any available short-story. 


9. Write a story told largely by dialogue. After the first 
few paragraphs, do not say who the speakers are, as " said Tom," 

10. Write the opening of a short-story, conveying the setting 
solely by dialogue. 

ii. Enlarge as much as possible the list of past participles on 
page 255. 

12. Take about fifty lines of dialogue from any short-story 
and reconstruct the dialogue by using new explanatory verbs, 
and by breaking up the dialogue, introducing brief comments at 
various points in the speeches of the characters. 

13. Write a short, exciting dialogue, using crisp, short sen- 

14. Follow this by toning down the same dialogue, forming 
your sentences in harmony with the changed mood. 



Because of the difference in people's tastes, it is hard to 
say just why a title pleases or displeases, why it interests or 
fails to interest. It is probably because of what it does or does 
not suggest — because of its associations. Some titles are fail- 
ures in themselves, either in conception or in form; but most 
poor titles are so because of a deficiency or a falseness of sug- 
gestion. — Evelyn May Albright, The Short-Story. 

The title of a short-story is its name, and it is with 
stories as with persons, a unique name suggests an in- 
teresting personality ; though sometimes, to carry on the 
comparison, a good name is its possessor's only merit. 

Short-story titles seem to reflect the spirit of the 
times ; not so markedly, however, as is the case with nov- 
els, which may deal more intimately with the big move- 
ments of the day, but still appreciably enough for us to 
note variations from year to year. Some of these changes 
in style are as whimsical as the mutations in woman's 
headgear. Now the fad runs to a fixed order of words. 
Once nothing but the name of a character would suit 
the extremist. A little while ago novels and stories were 
overwhelmed with titles of color — the red this was 
succeeded by the yellow that, until, with violet t'other 
the deluge at length subsided. 

But all the while a rising appreciation of the value of 


effective titles has led authors and editors alike to give 
them more attention. The result is apparent in every 
magazine. We now see that there are as many points of 
difference between the title of a novel and that of a short- 
story as exist between these two literary forms them- 
selves. What depth of treatment could you expect in a 
short-story entitled The Testing of Diana Mallory? 1 
While the broader work would probe character to the 
heart, the briefer fiction could deal with only one phase 
of life; and so the significance of such a title would be 

The selection of a title comes about in much the same 
manner as the choosing of a theme. 2 Indeed, the title 
may be the first to arise in the mind and from it the 
whole story develop. 

I. The Functions of a Title 

Miss Albright has well said : " The title has for its 
main function the advertising of the story to the reading 
public. Like other advertisements, it may or may not 
announce the genuine essence of the article. Its first 
business is to attract the reader's attention by the prom- 
ise of an interesting story." 3 

But before a title can advertise its wares to the public, 
it must: (a) appeal to the editor. 

There is something positively hypnotic in a fetching 
title. I have seen an editor, jaded by the reading of 

1 Mrs. Humphry Ward. 

2 See Part II, chap. i. 

8 The Short-Story, p. 91. 


many manuscripts, freshen like a spent hound at the 
sight of water, merely by coming across a promising 
title. First of all it may touch his personal interest, but 
in the end he considers that title in relation to other 
accepted fiction, to his annual subscribers, to news- 
stand sales, to the standing and traditions of his maga- 
zine, as well as with regard to its abstract merits. He 
knows that the title of a single story may influence 
thousands of readers, pro or con. So true is this that 
I have known several editorial councils and considera- 
ble correspondence to be devoted solely to discussing 
the wisdom of changing the title of one story. Au- 
thors should give editors the freest possible rein in 
the matter of such changes — provided, of course, no 
violence be done to appropriateness. Most magazines — 
and throughout this work I include the pictorial weeklies 
in the same category — would rather reject a good story 
than accept it weighted down with a really bad title. 

(b) The appeal to the public is quite different. Here 
interest is the primary, almost the sole, consideration. 
" A title that piques curiosity or suggests excitement or 
emotion . . . has all the advantage of a pretty girl 
over a plain one ; it is given an instantaneous chance to 
prove itself worth while." 4 Stand some day at a great 
railway magazine booth and watch the people as they fin- 
ger the periodicals. They vary greatly. One knows what 
he wants, but another will leaf and turn until some title 
leaps out from the page and suggests a story of the kind 

4 Quoted in Barrett's Short Story Writing from Munsey's, 
May, 1898. 


he likes. If the opening sentences are as attractive bait 
as the title, the fish is hooked. " I'd like to read that," 
and, " That looks good," have sold many a magazine, be- 
cause the same influence had been previously at work 
upon the manuscript reader. 

2. Good Titles 

A good title should be attractive, short, fitting, spe- 
cific, fresh, sonorous, literary, and suggestive. 

No further word is needed here as to attractiveness, 
but young writers do not sufficiently regard brevity. The 
average length of the titles of two hundred representa- 
tive short-stories, specially examined, is a little less than 
four words ; divided as follows : eight-word titles, I ; 
seven, i; six t 12; five, 30; four, 27; three, 77; two, 39; 
and one, 13. Of course, the initial " The " will play 
an important part in any ruch count. Again, the num- 
ber of syllables in each word is to be considered, as two 
long words like "Quarantine Island," by Besant, form 
really as long a title as " Ouida's " " A Leaf in the 
Storm " — five syllables in each. But be ruled by no such 
arbitrary fetish as a passion to have just so many words 
and syllables in a title. Let your title be brief, but let it 
also be fitting. 

The story itself will govern this point. Says Barrett, 
in his Short Story Writing, " — if you have difficulty 
in finding an appropriate title for your story, first ex- 
amine your plot, and make sure that the cause does not 
lie there . . . you may find that your plot lacks the 


definiteness of impression required by the short story."' 

Often the fitting character of the title will appear only 
as the story progresses, as in " The Window That Mon- 
sieur Forgot," Mary Imlay Taylor ; " The Liar," Henry 
James ; and " Many Waters," Margaret Deland. But do 
not rely upon this quality so utterly as to ignore the 
present interest of the title, as was done in Edward Bel- 
lamy's " Lost " — a vague title indeed and unattractive. 
Remember that titles are intended primarily for those 
who have not read the story. 

Most young writers make the mistake of selecting 
general instead of specific titles. Narrow down the title 
to Something individual enough to grip the attention. A 
merely general idea no mind can hold. 

That a title should be fresh goes almost without saying, 
yet every magazine is flooded with stories baptized with 
titles unconsciously purloined, and such worn-out titles 
as " A Strange Experience," " My Unusual Dream," and 
" When We Were Young." 

A sonorous title is one that sounds well — is " impres- 
sive in sound " ; whose words and syllables succeed each 
other effectively, as well as smoothly and pleasantly. 
Note the euphonious quality of Poe's " Ligeia," as con- 
trasted with " The Glenmutchkin Railway," by Aytoun. 
Remember, however, that a title may be so smooth as 
to be incapable of gripping the attention. 

By a literary title I mean one whose words have been 
chosen with due regard for their shades and beauty of 
meaning, and arranged in effective rhetorical order. 
Compare the quality of " A Purple Rhododendron," by 


John Fox, Jr., with " A Ride with a Mad Horse in a 
Freight Car," by W. H. H. Murray. 

It is most important that a title should be suggestive. 
" The Courting of Dinah Shadd," by Kipling, suggests 
a story of love, humor and unique character, and the 
reader is not disappointed. A suggestion of love-interest 
is of no small value. 

One province of suggestion is to pique yet baffle curi- 
osity by leading the imagination up to only a certain 
point, as in the following: 

" The Wedding Knell," Hawthorne. 

" The Mummy's Foot," Gautier. 

" The Severed Hand," HaurT. 

"The Black Poodle," Anstey. 

" The Hired Baby," Corelli. 

" The Man Who Would Be King," Kipling. 

" The Diamond Lens," O'Brien. 

" The Upper Berth," Crawford. 

Other suggestive titles more or less fully indicate the 
theme, as : 

" The Fall of the House of Usher," Poe. 
" How Don Q. Dealt With a Thief," Prichard. 
" Rosemary for Remembrance," " Harland." 
" The Night Run of the ' Overland/ " Peake. 
" A Temperance Campaign," Turner. 
" The Home-Coming of Colonel Hucks," William Al- 
len White. 
" The Trial For Murder," Dickens. 


By naming or describing a character the title may 
suggest a character study: 

" Marse Chan," Page. 
. " Thrawn Janet," Stevenson. 
" Gather," Davis. 
" Marjorie Daw," Aldrich. 
" Bimi," Kipling. 

" A New England Nun," Mary Wilkins Freeman. 
" Rappaccini's Daughter," Hawthorne. 
" The Girl at Duke's," Linn. 

Or the title may suggest a setting: 

" The Deserted House," Hoffman. 

" The Attack on the Mill," Zola. 

" Up the Coulee," Garland. 

" Young Strong of • The Clarion/ " Shinn. 

" The Luck of Roaring Camp," Harte. 

" The Philosopher in the Apple Orchard," " Hope." 

Again, the humorous note may be struck: 

" The Transferred Ghost," Stockton. 

" Colonel Starbottle For the Plaintiff," Harte. 

" The Jumping Frog," " Twain." 

" The Cannibals and Mr. Buffum," Loomis. 

Again, the title may disclose the idea of contrast in the 
story : 


" Two Men and a Woman," Deledda. 
" Railroad and Churchyard," Bjornson. 
" The Doctor, His Wife, and the Clock," Anna Kath- 
arine Green. 

" A Pompadour Angel," Moss. 

" Pigs is Pigs," Butler. 

" The Joneses' Telephone," Frechette. 

" The Encyclopeedy," Field. 

u The Incarnation of Krishna Mulvaney," Kipling. 

Or the title may suggest the basic idea by naming the 

central object: 


" The Great Carbuncle," Hawthorne. 

" The Gold Bug," Poe. 

" The Pope's Mule," Daudet. 

" The Damned Thing," Bierce. 

" My Terminal Moraine," Stockton. 

ft A Piece of String," Maupassant. 

" The Venus of Ille," Merimee. 

3. Titles to Avoid 

Don't choose a commonplace name for a title. Who 
would elect to read about " William Lee " when he 
might know " Pap Overholt " ? 5 

Don't choose such general titles as, 

i • 

"The Organist," Becquer. 

; " Two Friends," Kipling. 
B Alice MacGowan. 


" Uncle and Nephew/' About. 
" The Father," Bjornson. 
" A Love Story," Webster. 
" College Friends," Amicis. 

Don't handicap your story with such uninteresting 
titles as : 

" The Sempstress' Story," Droz. 

" Father and Son," Rod. 

" The Shot," Poushkin. 

" Poor Ogla Moga," Lloyd. 

" Kittie's Sister Josephine," Elizabeth Jordan. 

" A Faithful Retainer," Payn. 

" The Village Convict," C. H. White. 

Many in the foregoing lists are good stories, but their 
titles are not encouraging. 

Good magazines generally reject such sensational ti- 
tles as : 

" In Love With the Czarina," Jokai. 

" Minions of the Moon," F. W. Robinson. 

" The Brigand's Bride," Laurence Oliphant. 

" A Perilous Amour," Weyman. 

" The Revenge of Her Race," Beaumont. 

" A Terribly Strange Bed," Wilkie Collins. 

" My Wife's Tempter," O'Brien. 

Avoid the use of hackneyed words in your titles, as : 


" A Daring Fiction," Boyesen. 
" The Story of Two Lives," Schayer. 
" Mr. Bixby's Christinas Visitor," Gage. 
" The Extraordinary Adventure 6 of a Chief Mate," 
Clark Russell. 

Titles beginning with " How " or " Why " are usually 
trite and clumsy. 

If you use a quotation or a motto for a title, be sure 
it is not overworked. Two good ones are, " Thou Art 
the Man," by Poe, and " Such as Walk in Darkness," by 
Samuel Hopkins Adams. George Ade cleverly modified 
a quotation in his " To Make a Hoosier Holiday." 

Shun titles that " give away " your plot. Of course, 
there are instances in which the title intentionally discov- 
ers the whole plan of the story, as in Poe's " The Prema- 
ture Burial." In such cases the author either plans no 
surprise or depends for interest upon a unique handling 
of a situation, the essentials of which the reader may 
surmise from the title. In either case it is a bold plan. 
Even Poe did not carry it off with distinguished suc- 
cess. The saving device was in his beginning the story 
as though it were a human interest paper — a feature 
article — and ending by telling the story proper. 

Don't indulge freely in sub-titles. 

Avoid the or and and style of double title. 

Don't affect baldly alliterative titles. Poe's " The Pit 

6 The word " adventure " has been properly used of late in 
titles of short-stories published in series, such as the Sherlock 
Holmes stories. 


and the Pendulum" is close to the edge, though opin- 
ions differ on this point. 

Eschew titles that are gloomy, " The Sorrow of an 
Old Convict," Loti ; or old style, " Christian Gellert's Last 
Christmas," Auerbach ; or trite, " The Convict's Return," 
Harben ; or newspapery, " Rescued by a Child " ; or 
highly fantastic, " The Egyptian Fire Eater," 7 Baum- 
bach ; or anecdotal, " A Fishing Trip " ; or sentimental, 
" Hope," Bremer ; or repellent, " A Memorable Murder," 

It must be reiterated that almost all of the short-stories 
whose titles are here criticised are themselves passable, 
and a majority of them good, but there can be no doubt 
that their success would have been multiplied had their 
authors endowed them with attractive, short, fitting, spe- 
cific, fresh, sonorous, literary, and suggestive titles. 


1. Functions of the Title 

(a) Appeal to the Editor 
(&) Appeal to the Public 

2. Good Titles 

3. Titles to Avoid 


1. Which title do yon prefer in each of the following groups s 
and why? 

7 Changed by translator, from Baumbach's original title, 
Freund Lip p. 


"The Light-House Keeper of Aspinwall," Sienkiewicz. 
" The Juggler of Notre Dame," France. 

" A Ghetto Violet," Kompert. 

"A Rose of the Ghetto," Zangwill. 

"A Monk of the Ghetto," Wolfenstein. 

"The Denver Express," Hayes. 

"The Four-Fifteen Express," Edwards. 

"The Courting of Dinah Shadd," Kipling. 
"The Courting of T'Nowhead's Bell," Barrie. 

2. Set down, in a sentence or two devoted to each, the im- 
pressions made upon you by five titles from the current maga- 
zines, as to what kind of stories they represent 

3. What titles in Appendix B strike you as uninteresting? 

4. Criticise fully at least three titles in Appendix C, sug- 
gesting improvements of your own devising. 

5. (a) Count how many titles in Appendix B begin with 
"The"; (b) how many with "A"; (c) how many contain the 
word "of"? 

6. Construct two titles of each of the following kinds : (a) 
sonorous, (b) suggestive, (c) hinting the theme, (d) naming the 
chief character, (e) suggesting a setting, (f) humorous. 

7. Suggest improvements on at least five titles on page 271. 



Clear writers, like clear fountains, do not seem so deep as 
they are.— Walter Savage Landor. 

If I am ever obscure in my expression, do not fancy that 
therefore I am deep. If I were really deep, all the world would 
understand. — Charles Kingsley. 

If a man has anything to say he will manage to say it; if he 
has nothing to communicate, there is no reason why he should 
have a good style, any more than why he should have a good 
purse without any money, or a good scabbard without any 
sword. — George Macdonald. 

Style is a personally characteristic manner of expres- 
sion. When Buffon declared that style is " the man 
himself," he as much as said that a writer without in- 
dividuality of style had not yet attained to individuality 
in thought. A distinctive Kiplingism is his personal way 
of saying a thing, just as a British or a French idiom is 
a national way of saying a thing — individuality in both 

Style argues two things : First a personal view-point 
consistently maintained (or at least never flightily de- 
parted from) ; second, habit — and that means more or 
less conscious practice. By and by the writer of person- 
ality betrays his fondness for certain words, sentence- 
forms, sentence-groups, themes, view-points, beliefs and 


276 STYLE 

the whole thing. His views of life infuse themselves 
all through his expressions. Now, when these prefer- 
ences, these tendencies, become a habit — I do not say 
a narrow, slavish, one-eyed habit — the habit is his style, 
as markedly personal as his bow legs, and sometimes just 
as unlovely. 

, Here are four paragraphs from as many well-known 
authors. Are they in any respects alike ? Does not each 
bear the clear impress of a distinct personality? Pre- 
cisely how they differ not every one could say, but that 
they do differ every one would declare. Each possesses 
all of the essential, and some of the special properties of 
style, as rhetoricians classify them, yet somehow they are 
as unlike as four descriptions well might be. This un- 
likeness proceeds from the individualities back of the de- 
scriptions. 1 

We know not how to characterize, in any accordant and 
compatible terms, the Rome that lies before us ; its sunless 
alleys, and streets of palaces ; its churches, lined with the 
gorgeous marbles that were originally polished for the adorn- 
ment of pagan temples; its thousands of evil smells, mixed up 
with fragrance of rich incense diffused from as many censers ; 
its little life, deriving feeble nutriment from what has long 
been dead. Everywhere, some fragment of ruin suggesting the 
magnificence of a former epoch; everywhere, moreover, a Cross 
— and nastiness at the foot of it. As the sum of all, there are 
recollections that kindle the soul, and a gloom and languor that 
depress it beyond any depth of melancholic sentiment that can 
be elsewhere known. 2 

1 It is the function of this treatise not to analyze such differ- 
ences, but to point them out. 

2 Hawthorne, Marble Faun, I, chap. xii. Observe the general 
concepts set forth in a contemplative mood. 

STYLE 277 

At last I came within sight of the Pope's City [Avignon]. 
►Saints in heaven! What a beautiful town it was! Going right 
up two hundred feet above the bank of the river was a bare 
rock, steep and straight as though cut with a stonemason's 
chisel, on the very top of which was perched a castle with 
towers so big and high — twenty, thirty, forty times higher 
than the towers of our church — that they seemed to go right 
up out of sight into the clouds ! It was the Palace built by the 
Popes; and around and below it was a piling up of houses — 
big, little, long, wide, of every size and shape, and all of cut 
stone — covering a space as big, I might say, as half way from 
here to Carpentras. When I saw all this I was thunderstruck. 
And though I still was far away from the city a strange buzzing 
came from it and sounded in my ears — but whether it were 
shouts or songs or the roll of drums or the crash of falling 
houses or the firing of cannon, I could not tell. Then the words 
of the lame old man with the hoe came back to me, and all of 
a sudden I felt a heavy weight on my heart. What was I going 
to see, what was going to happen to me in the midst of 
those revolutionary city folks? What could I do among them — 
I, so utterly, utterly alone? 3 

That spring the mohwa tree, that Baloo was so fond of, never 
flowered. The greeny, cream-colored, waxy blossoms were heat- 
killed before they were born, and only a few bad-smelling petals 
came down when he stood on his hind legs and shook the tree. 
Then, inch by inch, the untempered heat crept into the heart 
of the Jungle, turning it yellow, brown, and at last black. The 
green growths in the sides of the ravines burned up to broken 
wires and curled films of dead stuff; the hidden pools sank 
down and caked over, keeping the least footmark on their edges 
as if it had been cast in iron; the juicy- stemmed creepers fell 
away from the trees they clung to and died at their feet; the 
bamboos withered, clanking when the hot winds blew, and the 
moss peeled off the rocks deep in the Jungle, till they were as 
bare and as hot as the quivering blue boulders in the bed of 
the stream. 4 

'Felix Gras, The Reds of the Midi, p. 69. Specific scene 
pictured from the speaking character's personal view-point. 
4 Kipling, The Second Jungle-Book. Note the many epithets, 

278 STYLE 

Noble Mansion! There stoodest thou, in deep Mountain 
Amphitheatre, on umbrageous lawns, in thy serene solitude ; 
stately, massive, all of granite; glittering in the western sun- 
beams, like a palace of El Dorado, overlaid with precious metal. 
Beautiful rose up, in wavy curvature, the slope of thy guardian 
Hills : of the greenest was their sward, embossed with its dark- 
brown frets of crag, or spotted by some spreading solitary Tree 
and its shadow. 5 

Style, then, runs all the gamut of individuality, hav- 
ing graces or crudities as the possessor may have culti- 
vated or neglected himself and his powers of self-ex- 
pression. A writer's personality will so temper his use 
of the general qualities of style, will dictate their use in 
such combinations, as to produce his own style. To be 
sure, markedly personal development is to be looked for 
only in exceptional authors, yet it is interesting to note 
how such individuality begins to show itself in a young 
writer. A man of petulant nature will naturally adopt 
a short and crisp manner of expression; he who is easy- 
going and mild will reflect this temper in his utterances ; 
while the flustry, blustry fellow will lean to a style florid 
and wordy. It is precisely here that the value of rhetor- 
ical training appears, in that it gives the writer command 
of such variety of expression that he may accomplish 
his end without either burying his personality or thrust- 
ing it into every one's face. 

Now, by all this I do not mean that the writer of fic- 
tion may make his characters speak and act from his per- 
sonal view-point. That were absurd. Each character 
must think, and speak, and act, consistently with his or 

5 Carlyle, Sartor Resartus. Apostrophe. 

STYLE 279 

her own personality. Still, all the issue of a single mint- 
age may bear a subtle unity of impress, even when the 
coins uttered vary from copper to gold. When the 
author speaks as the author (Hawthorne, in the preced- 
ing examples), he makes no attempt to conceal his in- 
dividuality; but when the writer puts words into the 
mouth of a character (Gras, also quoted in the preceding 
specimens), it is the character who speaks. Underneath 
it all, the author's personal style will constantly appear 
to the trained eye. 6 

It ought now to be plain why it is so futile to study 
the great stylists merely with a view to imitation. The 
ass in the lion's skin will eventually bray. 

What, then! Shall we not study the literary arts of 
master story-writers? Has imitation no place in the de- 
velopment of an individual style ? Yes, to both queries ; 
and particularly if imitation be practised consciously as a 
study ; but note : study the styles of all masters and imi- 
tate their sentence forms only so far as to learn (if possi- 
ble) the devices by which they secured results, to observe 
the errors into which they fell, and to master the various 
forms in which they cast their thought. You must use 
substantially the same tools as they, but the uncut stone 
is before you and you need not slavishly follow another's 
work if there is an original idea in your brain. Style 
implies a certain amount of distinction, and mere imi- 
tation is not the mother of invention. 

In his essay on " A College Magazine," included in 

6 Compare p. 192. 

280 STYLE 

the volume, Memories and Portraits, Stevenson shows 
how he rose from imitation to originality of style. 

" Whenever I read a book or a passage that particu- 
larly pleased me, in which a thing was said or an effect 
rendered with propriety, in which there was either some 
conspicuous force or some happy distinction in the style 
I must sit down at once and set myself to ape that 
quality. I was unsuccessful, and I knew it; and tried 
again, and was again unsuccessful, and always unsuc- 
cessful; but at least in these vain bouts I got some prac- 
tice in rhythm, in harmony, in construction and co- 
ordination of parts. 

" I have thus played the sedulous ape to Hazlitt, to 
Lamb, to Wordsworth, to Sir Thomas Browne, to Defoe, 
to Hawthorne, to Montaigne. 

" That, like it or not, is the way to learn to write ; 
whether I have profited or not, that is the way. It was 
the way Keats learned, and there never was a finer 
temperament for literature than Keats'. 

" It is the great point of these imitations that there 
still shines beyond the student's reach, his inimitable 
model. Let him try as he please, he is still sure of fail- 
jure ; and it is an old and very true saying that failure is 
the only highroad to success. I must have had some 
disposition to learn; for I clear-sightedly condemned my 
own performances. I liked doing them indeed ; but when 
they were done, I could see they were rubbish. In con- 
sequence I very rarely showed them even to my friends ; 
and such friends as I chose to be my confidants I must 

STYLE 28l 

have chosen well, for they had the friendliness to be 
quite plain with me. Thrice I put myself in the way of a 
more authoritative rebuff, by sending a paper to a maga- 
zine. These were returned, and I was not surprised or 
even pained. If they had not been looked at, as (like 
all amateurs) I suspected was the case, there was no 
good in repeating the experiment; if they had been 
looked at, well then, I had not yet learned to write, and 
I must keep on learning and living." 

Style is characteristic expression, but impression pre- 
cedes expression. First be, then speak. The full life is 
not a cistern; it is a fountain, and it must overflow. If 
the stream be big and impulsive it will even wash out 
new channels for itself, but somehow it will gush forth. 
Great stylists are no more made by the tricks of rhet- 
oric than rivers are created by watering pots. 

The first step toward attaining to an individual style 
is to put good things, vital, picturesque, significant 
things, into your life. The second step is to be your best 
self consistently. The third step is so to master the 
means of expression that the rules of structure are lost 
sight of and are become a sensitive literary conscience 
prompt to warn of error and suggest the good. The final 
step is to express your own self fearlessly and interpret 
life sincerely. You will then have established your style 
— a literary habit precisely as worthy and as individual 
as your own self. What you write will be marked by 
personality plus attainment. 

282 STYLE 


1. Select from three great story writers passages which 
you think are quite characteristic of their style. 

2. Comment on each, noting points of similarity and differ- 

3. Macaulay observes that Samuel Johnson was not always 
pompous. In a personal letter Johnson says, " A dirty fellow 
bounded out of the bed on which one of us was to lie " ; but in 
a book he describes the same incident thus : " Out of one of 
the beds on which we were to repose, started up, at our en- 
trance, a man black as a Cyclops from the forge." Discuss this 
difference fully. 

Note: The instructor may think it wise to assign brief exer- 
cises in imitation, such as writing an incident in several differ- 
ent styles, following closely the methods of Kipling, James, " O. 
Henry," and others. 



In fiction you must walk by sight and not by faith. — Anony- 

The smaller your object of artistry, the nicer should be your 
touch, the more careful your attention to minutiae. That, surely, 
would seem an axiom. You don't paint a miniature in the broad 
strokes that answer for a drop-curtain, nor does the weaver 
of a pocket-handkerchief give to that fabric the texture of a 
carpet. But the usual writer of fiction, when it occurs to him 
to utilize one of his second best ideas in the manufacture of a 
short-story, will commonly bring to his undertaking exactly 
the same slap-dash methods which he has found to serve in 
the construction of his novels. . . . Where he should have 
brought a finer method, he has brought a coarser; where he 
should have worked goldsmithwise, with tiny chisel, finishing 
exquisitely, he has worked blacksmithwise, with sledge-hammer 
and anvil; where, because the thing is little, every detail counts, 
he has been slovenly in detail. — Anonymous, Quoted in How 
to Write a Novel. 

In the chapter immediately preceding this, style in gen- 
eral and some of its rhetorical qualities receive brief no- 
tice. A fuller examination of the general and special 
properties of style may profitably be made with the help 
of a thorough text-book on rhetoric, for you will find 
a knowledge of these formal principles important, if not 
essential. How to attain clearness, unity, coherence, 
force, ease, and how to master the problems of selection 



and arrangement, may best be studied systematically. 
The same is true of the choice of words, and the laws 
of description, exposition and narration. But for those 
who lack either the opportunity or the inclination for 
such orderly study, one thing at least is indispensable — 
a careful examination of a few short-story masterpieces. 
True — as Sir Joshua Reynolds observes in his lectures 
on art — to compare " your efforts with those of some 
great master is indeed a severe and mortifying task, to 
which none will submit but such as have great views, 
with fortitude sufficient to forego the gratification of pres- 
ent vanity for future honor." 

When you have summoned the resolution and the hu- 
mility to lay your case before so august a tribunal, look 
for four things in the work of the master, and sedulously 
mould your own work accordingly : 

1. Harmony of Tone 

The tone of a literary composition is its temper, mood, 
or spirit. It is gay or grave, satirical or sympathetic, 
lofty or low — all dependent directly upon the theme and 
upon the motive, or purpose, 1 of the writer, whether he 
himself has or has not fully recognized that purpose. 

1 1 prefer the term purpose because there seems to be some 
confusion of the terms motive as applied (a) to the germ idea 
in the literary material which gives rise to the story (treated 
as a chapter in Albright's The Short-Story) ; (b) motive as the 
conception in the story-teller's mind of an effect he wishes to 
produce; (c) motive as the actual theme or subject of the 
story; and, finally (d) the motive of the author as applied to 
his purpose in creating the fiction ; whether, for instance, to 
instruct or amuse (treated very fully in Home's The Technique 
«/ the Novel). 


It is futile to try to limit the purpose, or motive, of 
the story-writer. Any purpose fitting in life is proper 
in fiction. The short-story may be the theatre, the ros- 
trum, the school-desk, or the pulpit — doing its work 
best when its purpose is unconfessed, its art concealed 
by art. 

Since theme and purpose establish the tone, the tone 
must consistently pervade the whole story. However, 
that statement needs a word of explanation. 

To insist upon congruity of tone is not to forbid varia- 
tions, even extreme variations, of mood in the story ; but 
through it all must breathe a single spirit. Characters, 
setting, and plot, may furnish that delightful variety 
which adds the piquancy of expected surprise. And the 
unity that arises from this diversity sets the tone of the 
story. 2 The story of tragedy may contain humor (if 
you are not a classical purist), but the fun must not 
rival the tragedy; pathos may mingle with laughter, but 
the laughter must tremble close to tears. Congruity 
demands good sense and pure taste. 

The purpose of the short-story writer, as determining 
tone, is colored, I know not how fully, by national spirit 
as well as by his own individuality. The novel more 
frequently than the short-story shows the influences of 
cosmopolitan thought, because the story of pure local 
color is more likely to be short than to run to novel- 

2 In his Philosophy of Composition Poe sometimes applies the 
term tone to an effect within the story, as contributing to the 
totality of impression for which he was working. "Having 
chosen a novel first, and secondly, a vivid effect, I consider 
whether it can be best wrought by incident or tone." 


length. Mr. Bret Harte, an American Samson whose 
locks were shorn in London, nevertheless carried with 
him his native literary gods. In his article on The Rise 
of the Short Story 3 he says : 

" The secret of the American short story is the treat- 
ment of characteristic American life, with absolute 
knowledge of its peculiarities and sympathy with its 
methods ; with no fastidious ignoring of its habitual ex- 
pression, or the inchoate poetry that may be found even 
hidden in its slang; with no moral determination except 
that which may be the legitimate outcome of the story 
itself; with no more elimination than may be necessary 
for the artistic conception, and never from the fear of 
the fetich of conventionalism. Of such is the American 
short story of to-day — the germ of American literature 
to come." 

Is there, then, an American spirit whose tone marks 
the tone of the American short-story? 

In The Study of the Novel* Professor Whitcomb has 
compiled a " comparison of critical estimates of national 
character " as furnishing " a natural basis for the study 
of national influence upon fiction. These he finds to be : 5 

English: "Energy with honesty (Matthew Arnold) ; 
"void of the sentiment of the beautiful — more apt for 
the sentiment of the true " (Taine). 

3 The Comhill Magazine, July, 1899. 

4 A monument of labor and compressed scholarship, invaluable 
to all students of fiction for suggestion and reference, but too 
condensed and analytical to admit of easy reading. 

6 Condensed from the original text. 


French: " Lucidity and strong social sense " (Brune- 

German: "Steadiness with honesty — the idea of 
science governing all departments of human activity " 
(Matthew Arnold). 

Italian: " What is not refined is not Italian — 
love of perfect form and artistic finish" (Garnett). 

Russian: " — the inability to bring its feelings 
and its beliefs into harmony" (Waliszewski). 

Spanish: " On the one hand empty honor, careless 
cruelty, besotted superstition, administrative conception, 
and on the other sobriety, uncomplaining industry and 
cheerful courage " (Matthews). 

Essentially the same ideas are expressed by the most 
astute of the critics quoted — Matthew Arnold. In his 
essay on Equality, 6 he judges the Hebrew people to have 
been preeminent in the righteousness of its laws. The 
Hellenic race stood for " The power of intellect and 
science, the power of beauty, the power of social life 
and manners." Four modern nations, he declares, prox- 
imately represent these several phases of perfect civiliza- 
tion: the British, conduct; the Italians, beauty; the 
French, manners and social life ; the Germans, the power 
of knowing a thing scientifically. 

But to me it seems that in America a fifth spirit is pre- 
eminent, modifying each of the other four as each in 
larger or smaller measure enters into our national char- 
acter: it is the spirit of practicality, the economic fitting 
of means to ends, together with a tremendous admiration 

6 Mixed Essays. 


for things American. This spirit attempts, with rare 
open-mindedness, to find aut what it wants, and then, 
with characteristic adaptability, goes straight for it — 
often too directly to consider the just claims of conduct, 
beauty, manners, and exact science, but still with an in- 
creasing understanding of these important elements of 
civilization, and hence with a growing recognition of 
their place and value. 

We shall find the foregoing national characteristics 
tonally present in the fiction of the respective European 
nations, bell-like and distinct, at times, or again just a 
faint overtone of suggestion. But in the American 
short-story the dual national notes are quite clearly heard. 
The briefest examination of our short-stories shows that 
two kinds are co-eminent : the story of local color, grow- 
ing out of our frankly naive, youthful wonder at our 
own infinite variety; and the story of achievement in 
business, politics, love and war. Other tones there are, 
of beauty and idealism, but these are present with, rather 
than dominating the tones of practicality and local pride. 
It will be most interesting to watch this youthful and, 
let us be glad to say it, healthful spirit mature and per- 
fect its conceptions side by side with its expression. 

2. Proportion 

The perfect short-story has balance, proportion. What 
elaboration could make this more clear? The conscious 
artist plans the order of events, giving to each just 
enough stress to lead up to an effective climax. He care- 


fully relates description to narration. Conversation is 
proportioned to characterization — in a word, he co- 
ordinates all the parts so as to produce a unified effect. 7 

3. Simplicity 

The man who puts on airs — has to. " Fine writing " 
is so plainly the stamp of feebleness that no one but the 
writer himself takes it seriously. So perhaps there is lit- 
tle use in attempting to utter a warning against the habit ; 
but at any rate listen to these words from Dr. Bird, an 
editor of experience: 

" When a tale begins, ' The golden orb of day was 
slowly sinking among the hills, shedding an effulgent 
glory over the distant landscape,' the discerning reader, 
whether official or volunteer, is apt to pause right there. 
He knows exactly what happens when the orb of day 
finds it time to disappear, and he does not care for your 
fine language unless it conveys a fact or an idea worth 

And even better is this illustration from the pen of 
Frank Norris : 

" Suppose, for instance, the New Testament was all 
unwritten and one of us were called upon to tell the 
world that Christ was born, to tell of how we had seen 

7 Those who do not wish to make a full study of ^Esthetics 
will find a satisfactory digest in Whitcomb's The Study of a 


Him, that this was the Messiah. How the adjectives 
would marshal upon the page, how the exclamatory- 
phrases would cry out, how we would elaborate and elab- 
orate, and how our rhetoric would flare and blazen till 
— so we should imagine — the ear would ring and the 
very eye would be dazzled; and even then we would be- 
lieve that our words were all so few and feeble. It is 
beyond words, we should vociferate. So it would be. 
That is very true — words of ours. Can you not see 
how we should dramatize it? We would make a point 
of the transcendent stillness of the hour, of the deep blue 
of the Judean midnight, of the liplapping of Galilee, the 
murmur of Jordan, the peacefulness of sleeping Jerusa- 
lem. Then the stars, the descent of the angel, the shep- 
herds — all the accessories. And our narrative would be 
as commensurate with the subject as the flippant smart- 
ness of a ' bright ' reporter in the Sistine chapel. We 
would be striving to cover up our innate incompetence, 
our impotence to do justice to the mighty theme by 
elaborateness of design and arabesque intricacy of rhet- 

" But on the other hand — listen : 

" * The days were accomplished that she should be de- 
livered, and she brought forth her first born son and 
wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a 
manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.' 

" Simplicity could go no further." 8 

* Simplicity in Art, from The Responsibilities of the Novelist. 


4. Compression 

The best phrasing of compression as a literary art is to 
be found in Professor Matthews' encomium of Maupas- 
sant's " extraordinary gifts and his marvelous crafts- 
manship. His Short-stories are masterpieces of the art 
of story-telling, because he had a Greek sense of form, a 
Latin power of construction, and a French felicity of 
style. They are simple, most of them; direct, swift, in- 
evitable, and inexorable in their straightforward move- 
ment. If art consists in the suppression of nonessentials, 
there have been few greater artists in fiction than Mau- 
passant. In his Short-stories there is never a word 
wasted, and there is never an excursus. Nor is there 
any feebleness or fumbling. What he wanted to do he 
did, with the unerring certainty of Leatherstocking, hit- 
ting the bull's-eye again and again." 9 

(a) Compression must apply to single sentences. Arlo 
Bates gives us this illustration in his admirable Talks on 
Writing English. 

" Water having been brought, Pilate, according to 
Miss Corelli, 10 thus proceded : — 

" ' Slowly lowering his hands, he dipped them in the shining 
bowl, rinsing them over and over again in the clear, cold ele- 
ment, which sparkled in its polished receptacle like an opal 
against the fire."' 

" The Bible finds it possible to say all of this that is 
necessary in the words: — 

" ' Pilate took water, and washed his hands.' " 

9 Philosophy of the Short-Story, p. 67. 

10 In Barabbas. 


(b) Compression must extend to groups of sentences. 
Here is a capital example from Thomas Hardy : 

The bedroom which she shared with some of the children 
formed her retreat more continually than ever. Here, under 
her few yards of thatch, she watched winds, and snows, and 
rains, gorgeous sunsets, and successive moons at their full. 
So close kept she that at length almost everybody thought she 
had gone. 11 

In William Allen White's " The Home-Coming of 
Colonel Hucks," there is a passage so compact that " to 
take away a sentence would be to amputate a limb." 

It was thus that young Colonel William Hucks brought his 
wife to Kansas. 

They were young, strong, hearty people, and they conquered 
the wilderness. A home sprang up in the elbow of the stream. 
In the fall long rows of corn-shucks trailed what had been 
the meadow. In the summer the field stood horse-high with 
corn. From the bluff, as the years flew by, the spectator might 
see the checker-board of the farm, clean cut, well kept, smiling 
in the sun. Little children frolicked in the king row, and hur- 
ried to school down the green lines of the lanes where the 
hedges grow. Once a slow procession, headed by a spring 
wagon with a little black box on it, might have been seen filing 
between the rows of the half-grown poplar trees, and out across 
the brown stubble-covered prairie, to the desolate hill and the 
graveyard. Now neighbors from miles around may be heard 
coming in the rattling wagons across vale and plain, laden with 
tin presents; after which the little home is seen ablaze with 
lights, while the fiddle vies with the mirth of the frolicking 
party, dancing with the wanton echoes on the bluff across the 

There were years when the light in the kitchen burned far 
into the night, when two heads bent over the table, figuring to 

^Tess of the D'Urbervilles, p. 93. 


make ends meet. In these years the girlish figure became bent 
and the light faded in the woman's eyes, while the lithe figure 
of the man was gnarled by the rigors of the struggle. 

There were days — not years, thank God — when lips forgot 
their tenderness; and as fate tugged fiercely at the barbed bit, 
there were times when souls rebelled and cried out in bitterness 
and despair at the roughness of the path. In this wise went 
Colonel Hucks and his wife through youth into maturity, and in 
this wise they faced toward the sunset. 

(c) Compression must pervade the whole plot; you 
must draw " everything down to a point." Simplicity, 
the selection of those salient tones and incidents with- 
out which the story would be other than it is, and an 
eye for the striking in word and deed — these are essen- 
tials of your art — and art expresses the man. Build 
your inner self of compact stuff. How can you write 
clearly if your thought is hazy, vigorously if your will is 
flabby, concisely if your mental habit is sprawly ! 

As for (d) the length of short-stories, styles change as 
they do with coats — sometimes they are worn longer, 
and again shorter. The average length in the time of 
Irving, Hawthorne and Poe was little short of ten thou- 
sand words. Nowadays, editors would think Poe's limit 
too long when he declared that, " If any literary work 
is too long to be read at one sitting, we must be content 
to dispense with the immensely important effect deriva- 
ble from unity of impression — for, if two sittings be re- 
quired, the affairs of the world interfere, and everything 
like totality is at once destroyed." 12 

The French masterpieces average about 5,000 words, 

12 Philosophy of Composition. 


with some of the choicest reaching barely 3,000. The 
British writers affect a limit of 6,000, German and Rus- 
sian stories run to 8,000, while American writers usually 
keep within 5,000, with the average reaching no more 
than 3,500. All in all, from 2,000 to 10,000 words is 
a fair statement of length, with some few even shorter 
or longer. 

Each magazine has its own length-limits, which you 
would do well to ascertain. Few periodicals accept short- 
stories of more than 5,000 words. 

The average short-story masterpiece, if we exclude 
those of Maupassant and Daudet, is longer than the aver- 
age short-story. The expert often dares a broader can- 
vas, and works in his detail more interestingly, than does 
the beginner. Even his name seems to warrant a some- 
what longer story — just as we listen rapt for an hour 
to a famous lecturer, and yawn over unadvertised elo- 
quence that flows for more than thirty minutes at a 

" The Insurgent," by Halevy, has 2,000 words ; " The 
Siege of Berlin," Daudet, 2,750 words ; " A Passion in 
the Desert," Balzac, 3,000; "Tennessee's Partner," 
Harte, 4,000; " Valia," Andreiev, 5,000; " Next to Read- 
ing Matter," " O. Henry," 6,000; " The Wind in the Rose 
Bush," Mary Wilkins Freeman, 6,750 ; " A Scandal in 
Bohemia," Doyle, 7,750 ; " Who Was She ? " Bayard 
Taylor, 8,000; " The Fall of the House of Usher," Poe, 
8,000; "The Corpus Delicti," Melville D. Post, 10,750; 
"Will o' the Mill," Stevenson, 11,500; "The Gentle 
Boy," Hawthorne, 12,000;" The Gold Bug," Poe, 13,000; 


"The Man Who Would Be King," Kipling, 13,750; 
" The Liar," Henry James, 20,ooo. 13 

These figures have little value save to urge the begin- 
ner to weigh his words. The story must not be pared 
down to the skeleton proportions of The Telegrapher's 
Biography : 

Monday : Hired. 

Tuesday : Wired. 

Wednesday : Tired. 

Thursday : Fired. 

Special Characteristics of the Short-story 

1. Harmony of Tone 

National Spirit 

2. Proportion 

3. Simplicity 

4. Compression 

(a) In Single Sentences 

(b) In Sentence Groups 

(c) In the Plot 

(d) Length of Short-stories 


1. Revise one of your earlier stories with a view to congruity 
of tone. 

2. Find a short-story that exhibits the American spirit. 

3. From a popular magazine select several sentences which 
you can compress into clauses ; then reduce the clauses into 
phrases, and, if possible, the phrases into words. 

13 See also the twenty stories synoptised in Appendix C, 


4. Try the effect of still further condensing Maupassant's The 
Necklace, on page 326. 

5. (a) Compress the story of a college year into a paragraph, 
(b) Compress the paragraph into a sentence. 

Note: The instructor may make other similar assignments. 

6. Discuss the effect of over-compression, upon the reader. 

7. Take up all your previous short-story attempts and review 
their defects and merits in the light of what you have learned. 

8. Write a final short-story, suiting your own tastes and 
striving to express your own conception of a good short-story. 

Note: In the present author's "Writing for the Magazines" 
(1916) is recorded the results of an examination of 829 short- 
stories printed in 120 copies of 40 different magazines. The 
average length was found to be 4,500 words. Thus it appears 
that the average length is on the increase. However, it is much 
easier to sell a shorter story than a longer one; if the writer 
wishes to stress the factor of salability. 



The public is composed of numerous groups crying out: Con- 
sole me, amuse me, sadden me, touch me, make me dream, laugh, 
shudder, weep, think. But the fine spirit says to the artist : 
Make something beautiful in the form that suits you, according 
to your personal temperament. — Guy de Maupassant, Pierre et 
Jean, Preface. 

That story is good which is shot through with the author's 
personality, which gives us most fully and entirely his perception 
and emotion and his personal vision of the world. He may 
perceive a multitude of things, but until he translates the per- 
ceptions into himself, impregnates them with individuality and 
significance, his story amounts to little. — Harper's Weekly, 
Editorial, May 23, 1908. 






There are two kinds of artists in this world: those that work 
because the spirit is in them, and they cannot be silent if they 
would, and those that speak from a conscientious desire to make 
apparent to others the beauty that has awakened their own ad- 
miration. — Anna Katherine Green, The Sword of Damocles. 

Chaucer seems to me to have been one of the most purely 
original of poets. . . . He is original not in the sense that 
he thinks and says what nobody ever thought or said before, 
and what nobody can ever think and say again, but because he 
is always natural; because if not absolutely new, he is always 
delightfully fresh; because he sets before us the world as it 
honestly appeared to Geoffrey Chaucer, and not a world as it 
seemed proper to certain people that it ought to appear. — James 
Russell Lowell. 

Samuel Johnson once said of Gray, the author of the 
Elegy, " He was dull in a new way, and that made many 
people think him great." 2 This savage criticism time 
has disallowed, but the critic has at least thrown a side- 

1 Adapted from the author's How to Attract and Hold an 
Audience (Hinds, Hayden & Eldredge, New York). 

2 Life of lohnson, Boswell, p. 241. 



light upon originality. The great mass of alleged origi- 
nal matter is merely old thought reset in new form. 
Originality is a relative term. 

I. The Test of Originality 

It is more important to know whether or not your own 
mind is creative than to determine that fact as to others. 
Here is a sure test: 

How does my mind act when it receives new thought? 

Does it take in a thought and then give it out again 
in exactly or substantially the same words? If credit 
is given to the author, that is quotation; otherwise it is 
literary theft. 

Upon receiving a thought, does my mind feel stimu- 
lated to produce other thoughts, and yet utter the re- 
ceived thought without change? That is expansion. 

Does my mind not only receive a stimulus from a new 
thought but also assimilate it, clarify, transform, and am- 
plify it, so that in uttering that thought I utter it stamped 
with my own " image and superscription " ? That is 

Such is the test. It is as high as it is final. An origi- 
nal thought is a new birth — the fruit of a union of truth 
from without and of thought from within. A fertile 
intellect, open to new ideas, sensitive to take them in, 
and ready both to act upon them and to be acted upon by 
them, is that rarest of all intellectual beings, an original 


In Vawder's Understudy James Knapp Reeve makes 
one of his characters remark that an original idea comes 
to a mind about once in a lifetime, and when it does 
come it should be entertained. This is too high an esti- 
mate for most minds. Ingenuity, novelty, cleverness, 
they may have, but real originality never. And this is 
not a disparagement. They are in good company, and 
have plenty of it. Even an original mind cannot always 
show its fertility, and many keen, cultured intellects never 
rise to originality in the high sense just set forth. Fur- 
thermore, some thoughts never do more than stimulate 
even a fertile mind, because they are complete in them- 
selves. To change would be to destroy them. Their 
function is not to fructify but to stimulate the mind 
into which they enter. And a large part of our mental 
output is the result of such stimulating suggestion. This 
is not originality in the strictest sense, though such it is 
according to the popular use of the term. It is the only 
creative spirit that many able writers possess, and second 
only to pure originality itself. Popularly, we call that 
man original who stands on his own feet, uses the 
thoughts of others only to stimulate and supplement his 
own, and who does his best to color borrowed thought 
with the hue of his own personality. Such a man, if 
he be not a creator, is at least a thinker, and a thinker 
need never be a literary thief. The entrance of any 
thought that will set the mind to working should be 
welcome indeed. 


2. The Sources of Originality 

Rare as genuine originality is, the number of those 
who attain thereto would be largely increased did writers 
make it the object of serious effort. 

A study of the mental habits of original writers reveals 
several suggestive facts. 

(a) Original minds are observers of nature. The 
same perennial source-spring is open to all. Upon every 
hand are the facts of inanimate and animate nature which 
spoke so powerfully to others. Human beings are much 
the same to-day as when their characteristic traits proved 
suggestive to Balzac and Stevenson. It needs but an 
alert, receptive mind to take these things and transform 
them into material for fiction. 

(b) Original minds have learned to think consecu- 
tively. This is an age of second-hand thinking. We 
ask for our milk malted, our meats peptonized, and our 
books digested. Reviews, condensations, and reference 
works, are quite as typical of the intellectual life of the 
period as labor-saving devices are characteristic of the 
material world. Short cuts are the mania of the age. 
One marked result of all this is its effect upon the men- 
tal powers. Men are losing both desire and ability to 
think consecutively on other than business lines. True, 
education is in part meeting this lack; but only in part, 
for education cannot cope with the hop-skip-and-jump 
mental habits fixed by the fragmentary articles which 
the average man skims over in his daily reading. A 


book that requires consecutive thought is generally voted 

Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler proposes five tests of edu- 
cation, in the broadest sense of the term, and among 
them he places reflection. Here they are: 

1. Correctness and precision in the use of the mother 

2. Those refined and gentle manners which are the 
expression of fixed habits of thought and of action. 

3. The power and habit of reflection. 

4. The power of intellectual growth. 

5. Efficiency, the power to do. 

But if the lack of consecutive thinking is so general 
a failing, all the greater are the rewards offered to the 
writer who to his powers of observation is willing to 
add the ability to reflect, and to think systematically. 3 
Originality waits for him to crown his desire with gift. 

(c) Original minds cherish the companionship of great 
thoughts. How much might here be said! Three sen- 
tences must suffice. He who would produce original 
ideas must fertilize his mind by contact with the epoch- 
making thoughts of all ages. These he will find pre- 
served to him in a few great books, and animating the 
minds of living men and women who are worth know- 
ing. If there is anything in a mind, such companion- 
ship will call it forth. 

3 Talks to Students on the Art of Study , Frank Cramer (The 
Hoffman-Edwards Co., San Francisco) is full of suggestion 
for those untrained in thinking. This book is out of print. 


(d) Original minds dare to be themselves. Dare! 
The word is not ill-chosen. The penalty for failure is 
as severe as the meed of success is great. " Insist on 
yourself — never imitate/' said Emerson — himself a 
most individual man. 

The quality of an earnest mind may be tested in this : 
Am I willing to stand on my own feet now — and so 
strengthen myself for future walking, even by my very 
stumbling efforts — rather than use crutches for the sake 
of more rapid progress in the beginning? The young 
writer who dares to be himself, casting artificiality to 
the winds, may begin by writing less brilliant stories 
than his companions who copy and crib, but his power 
and invention will increase, and he will end far in ad- 
vance of his less original rivals. Far better the occa- 
sional blunders of an original writer than the inane and 
icy correctness of a lifeless imitator. 

Doubtless natural gifts count for much, but let the 
young writer patiently observe nature, let him practise 
consecutive thinking, let him cherish the companionship 
of great thoughts, let him dare to be himself, and his 
mind will come to be as original as its native capacity 
will allow. 


1. The Test of Originality 

2. The Sources of Originality 

(a) Observation of Nature 
(&) Consecutive Thinking 

(c) High Thinking 

(d) Daring to be Oneself 



1. Do you recall any book which has especially set you to 
thinking ? 

2. In general, did you agree or disagree with it? 

3. Which stimulates you more, agreement or disagreement 
with another thinker? 

4. Which stimulates you most : books, observation, or dis- 

5. Do your experiences in this respect vary? 

6. What influences work against clear, consecutive thinking? 



Genius can never despise labor. — Abel Stevens, Life ef 
Madame de Stael. 

I think that most writers, when they have got some particu- 
larly good idea into some particularly lucid and effective form 
of words, often feel that the job is only partly of their doing, 
and that a good deal of it, and probably the very best of it, came 
to them by processes more or less independent of their volition. 
Nobody writes without putting his will into the work and mak- 
ing the indispensable effort; but what comes is partly what is 
in him, and partly what is given him to say, and which is which 
he may not know, nor whence came what was given. What we 
call literary talent, or, in its rarer and more remarkable form, 
genius, seems to be the gift of having extra-good ideas come 
into the mind and clothe themselves with extra-good language. 
Very young writers have sometimes powers of expression which 
persons less lucky never get. There is an ear for language like 
the ear for music, and akin to it. Girls of the most limited 
experience and youths of inadequate education seem now and 
then to possess by instinct the faculty of expression; of putting 
their words where they ought to go, and doing the trick that 
makes literature. — Edward S. Martin, Writing, Harper's, 
Jan., 1908. 

Are short-story writers born or made? 

Both. If they are not born, they cannot be made, but 
those who rely solely upon talent never amount to any- 
thing worth talking about. The ideal combination is 



training added to talent. Superior ability never proves 
itself until a man sets to work. 

John Burroughs has said of style what Emerson once 
declared of certain methods in mathematics, that it is in- 
communicable. So is the artistic spirit. All must agree 
that it is impossible to implant talent, to inducate it — to 
coin a word with a meaning just the opposite of educate, 
which signifies to lead out. 

Of course I apply this now to the talent for conceiving 
and constructing fictions. "This gift of story-telling," 
writes Professor Matthews, " can exist independently of 
any other faculty. It may be all that the possessor has. 
He might be wholly without any of the qualifications of 
the literator; he might lack education and intelligence; 
he might have no knowledge of the world, no experience 
of life, and no insight into character ; he might be devoid 
of style, and even of grammar — all the deficiencies are 
as nothing if only he have the gift of story-telling. With- 
out that, he may have all the other qualifications and 
still fail as a writer of fiction." * 

These words are extreme, but we must recognize their 
fundamental truth. Genius intuitively knows what les- 
ser minds must needs be taught. The atmosphere in 
which the genius moves calls forth his creations. " Thus 
Shakespeare was never taught the principles of dramatic 
art; Bach had an instructive appreciation of [the] laws 
of harmony ; and Turner had some insight into the laws 
of painting — they simply looked — and understood." 2 

1 The Gift of Story-Telling, in Aspects of Fiction. 

2 How to Write a Novel (published anonymously in London 
by Grant Richards), p. 4. 


But while one writer springs, as did Minerva, full- 
panoplied from the brow of Jove, a thousand, like 
Achilles, are born of lowlier parents, trained by demi- 
gods, and dipped in the Styx to make them invulnerable 
— and even then one heel is always subject to mortal 
wounds. Since talent and the artistic spirit and the 
story-telling gift are incommunicable, what is it that can 
be taught? Why, the knowledge of how master-fiction- 
ists have told their stories. Though success can never 
be fully explained, nor guaranteed to those who will fol- 
low a given course, still you may, by analyzing the results 
attained by short-story artists, discover two things (and 
these two things the two important ones to know about 
the mechanics of any art) — its subject matter, and its 
form. The rest is a question of ability and application ; 
it remains to put into practice the principles deduced 
from the work of writers whom men call great, while 
coloring all with the tone of your own spirit. It is one 
thing to teach how good short-stories are written; it is 
quite another to teach one to write a good short-story. 

When Mr. William Allen White says that, " Art con- 
sists in surmounting difficulty to produce beauty," and 
Mr. Mabie that art is " always and everywhere the best 
way of doing a thing," we have before us two different 
views of art. In the one, the short-story artist — and 
both the authors quoted refer to him — is regarded as 
attaining an effect which, in so far as it measures up to a 
standard, is perfect art; in the* other, the craft of the 
literary workman is held in view. The former — that 
is the artistic result — we may explain and illustrate and 


analyze. We may help and direct the worker, but no 
more. As to the latter quotation, " the best way of doing 
a thing " can be taught in principle and in practice. But 
after all it is only the way to do it, it is not the thing 
itself. The same distinction holds in teaching art of all 
kinds. 3 

Mr. Sherwin Cody, in the Introduction to his collec- 
tion of The World's Greatest Short Stories, utters some 
concise and illuminating words regarding both the nature 
of literary art and its special relation to the short-story. 

" There are two kinds of art, conscious and uncon- 
scious. When the knights-errant of genius cry, ' The 
poet is born, not made/ they by no means intend to 
imply that form is nothing : they are thinking, • Genius 
invents its own forms unconsciously, which are far su« 
perior to the forms selected by the conscious artist who is 
uninspired by genius. They ignore the conscious artist 
who is inspired by genius, for there is nothing at all in- 
compatible between conscious art and genius. The fact 
is, however, that the history of nearly every special art 
is that at first its forms are unconscious, or, let us say, 
experimental; and as in its evolution it draws near to 
perfection and its possibilities are realized to the full, 
very nearly all its practitioners become conscious artists. " 

That there is great need for story-writers to make a 
more careful study of their art is doubtless more ap- 
parent to the reader of manuscripts than to the average 

3 Mr. Frank Norris presented a different view in his essay, 

Novelists to Order, in The Responsibilities of the Novelist. 


writer. Men and women who admit the necessity of 
preparation for doing any other work well, seem to as- 
sume that authorship is a gift of the gods — and them- 
selves the recipients of the divine favor! 

One of the judges of an important prize short-story 
contest conducted by Collier's Weekly in 1905 was Mr. 
Walter Page. Of those competing he says : 

" So many writers seemed to mistake good materials 
for good stories that I wonder if this be not a common 
mistake in our time. Surely it is a fundamental mis- 
take to forget that story-telling is an art, a difficult art, 
too. A man who has a stirring fact or a thrilling experi- 
ence has not a story until he has used it in some proper 
way — has constructed it, has built it." 4 

Another experienced literary worker gives this testi- 
mony, which will be seconded by every editor : " There 
are many writers throughout the country, with good 
education, with clear brains, and with the ambition to see 
their work in print, who are failing merely because they 
are not familiar with the technique of the short-story." 5 

In this connection it is interesting to note that well- 
known authors themselves differ widely in their estimates 
of the value of a formal training for authorship as com- 
pared with natural ability. But upon one thing they all 
agree — that constant practice and hard work are at the 
foundation of success. Not one feels that a native gift, 

4 Collier's Weekly, Feb. 11, 1905. 

5 How to Write a Short _ Story, Leslie W. Quirk. 


uncultivated, entitles him to a hearing. And all have 
proved their faith by their works. 

Upon the one hand, Thomas Wentworth Higginson 
says that he came to literature by heredity, for the print- 
er's ink in his blood is three hundred years old. Stedman 
felt that he inherited from his mother the knack of ex- 
pression. Lowell thought that " man's style is born with 
him." Haeckel acknowledged nature " as the first and 
best mistress " in expression. Miss Corelli professes to 
"owe nothing to systematic training." Hall Caine says 
that without a " natural ear for prose " no writer " will 
ever do great things." " Miss Mulock " believed that 
" composition is a gift, not an art." General Lew Wal- 
lace and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward attribute nothing 
to method. George Moore says that he was never any- 
thing but desultory in his studying. Andrew Lang thinks 
writing comes by nature. Robert Barr, H. Rider Hag- 
gard, Arthur Morrison, and " John Oliver Hobbes " have 
expressed themselves as doubtful of the value of special 
training for fiction writing, while George W. Cable 
" never had a teacher competent to teach the art " of liter- 
ary construction. 

Of course not every litterateur is able to judge of 
what forces were most effective in contributing to his 
success. The value of that informal training which a 
literary worker is constantly giving himself is real, even 
if unrecognized. The author of genius and the writer 
of talent both grow as they labor. 

Other authors, equally eminent, testify to their regard 
for training. " The present which is made to some of us 


at our birth," says Jean Ingelow, " is not that same thing 
which the others can acquire by study, by thought, and 
by time. But though what is required is not the same, 
yet those who have a gift can never make it what it 
was meant to be until the other has been added." Hux- 
ley ascribed his literary ability to the fact that he had 
learned " to spare no labour upon the process of acquir- 
ing clear ideas." Dowden thinks that " Genius is energy 
quite as much as insight; and insight is as much de- 
pendent upon tireless activity as upon Divine gift." An- 
thony Trollope said that " there is no way of writing 
well and also of writing easily." Frank Norris declared 
that in fiction " even a defective training is better than 
none." George Gissing thought highly of literary train- 
ing, as also did Wilkie Collins. Renan declared that 
" Good training of the mind is the only school of good 
style ;" with which Taine agreed, saying that, " The 
men of my time in France have all received a special 
training with a view to style," and laying much stress 
upon classical discipline. George Meredith counsels 
study, as does Marion Crawford. Grant Allen attached 
great importance to education, and S. Baring-Gould 
served an " apprenticeship in literature." William Black 
and Edward Eggleston recommended incessant practice. 
Sir Walter Besant believed in studying technique, as did 
Poe, Balzac, Stevenson and Hawthorne. Ambassador 
Bryce and John Burroughs advise the study of master- 
pieces of English. Parkman acknowledged his great 
debt to training, as does Edward Everett Hale. Oliver 


Wendell Holmes and Edgar Fawcett learned how not 
to write, by means of instruction. 6 

In the last analysis, it is a personal problem to discover 
what course one should pursue in preparing for author- 
ship. The critic hesitates to lay his finger upon any 
one thing as indispensable, for fear of having some one 
arise and triumphantly point out that this author and that 
succeeded without any education, another without having 
read Shakespeare or even his own contemporaries, an- 
other without any knowledge of grammar, rhetoric, and 
aesthetics — and so on. However, it is surely safe to 
recommend a secondary-school course and, if possible, 
a college career as well. Many schools and higher insti- 
tutions are now giving courses in the short-story, while 
studies in composition, rhetoric, aesthetics, and the 
English novel cannot but be helpful. As yet, we have 
no professional schools of authorship, though we are 
promised that which seems more practicable — a school 
of journalism. 

Then there is no want of admirable books 7 on all these 
and cognate subjects, with occasional lecture-courses as 
well. A suggested laboratory method for the study of 
short-story models is fully outlined in a later chapter. 
But by all odds the most useful thing is to write. Write 
persistently, then revise, and then — perhaps destroy, per- 

6 A number of the testimonies cited above are condensed from 
original statements contributed by the authors named, to The 
Art of Authorship, compiled and edited by George Bainton 
(Appleton, New York). 

7 See Appendix E. 


haps preserve, perhaps publish! Be grateful for intelli- 
gent criticism whenever you can get it, whether from a 
teacher or from an active editor. " In my own case," 
says Mr. Howells, " I noticed that the contributors who 
could best be left to themselves were those who were 
most amenable to suggestion and even correction, who 
took the blue pencil with a smile, and bowed gladly to 
the rod of the proofreader. Those who were on the 
alert for offense, who resented a marginal note as a 
slight, and bumptiously demanded that their work be 
printed just as they had written it, were commonly not 
much more desired by the reader than by the editor." 8 

If a chance opens to do newspaper work, you will 
find it a difficult but profitable school; though it leaves 
little leisure and less energy for fiction writing; and, 
as Charles Dudley Warner has pointed out, the news- 
paper reporter must cultivate compression at the expense 
of his power to elaborate. 9 

But whatever you do, do not lightly take up literature 
as a life-work. The way is long, and the rewards are 
both slight and slow to materialize. To some, literature 
is a trade, to some an avocation, to some a profession. 10 
Succeed in it as an avocation before you venture to 
adopt fiction as your " visible means of support." But 
having set professional authorship as your goal, despise 
not the lightest hint that will make your preparation 
more thorough and adequate. 

8 Literature and Life. 

9 See Our English, A. S. Hill, chapter on English in News- 
papers and Novels. 

10 See Journalism and Literature, H. W. Boynton. 


Consider these words written by " Mark Twain " to 
a young friend. They are an allegory, serious and big, 
for all who would essay the literary life. 

" There is an unwritten law about human successes, and your 
sister must bow to that law, she must submit to its require- 
ments. In brief, this law is: 

" 1. No occupation without an apprenticeship. 

"2. No pay to the apprentice. 

" This law stands right in the way of the subaltern who wants 
to be a General before he has smelt powder; and it stands (and 
should stand) in everybody's way who applies for pay and 
position before he has served his apprenticeship and proved him- 

But even the apprentice must exercise initiative, so do 
not be afraid to do things your own way — " to be faith- 
ful to the coloring of your own spirit," as Walter Pater 
has put it. In his preface to Pierre et Jean, Maupas- 
sant finely says : " Each of us . . . forms for him- 
self an illusion of the world, an illusion poetical, senti- 
mental, joyous, melancholy, unclean, or dismal, accord- 
ing to his nature." So the biggest part of your prepara- 
tion is to cultivate your personality. 

To some, rules are fetters which despoil them of free- 
dom; to others, belts which gird the loins for successful 
effort. " Good judgment lies at the far end of a long 
and up-hill road. But the well-trained mind comes after 
awhile to feel the right and the wrong of each step." 1X 

Finally, I wish that every timorous worker might read 
and digest " The Magic Story," whose message, in brief, 
is this : 

" Talks to Students on the Art of Study, Cramer. See p. 303. 


" Go, therefore, and do that which is within you to do; 
take no heed of gestures which beckon you aside; ask 
of no man permission to perform'' 12 

Talent and Training 

Talent Incommunicable 

Relation of Art to Talent 

Relation of Training to Talent 
Education and Study- 
Newspaper work 

12 Frederic Van Rensselaer Dey (Success Company, New 


The knowledge of words is the gate of scholarship. — Wilson. 

The term "vocabulary " has a special as well as a 
general meaning. All vocabularies are indeed based 
upon the common everyday words of the language, but 
each special vocabulary possesses a number of words of 
peculiar value for its own objects. Such words may be 
used in other vocabularies also, but the fact that they are 
suited to a unique order of expression marks them as of 
special value to a particular craft or calling. 1 

In this respect the short-story writer differs not at all 
from the poet, the novelist, the scientist, the traveler. 
To his everyday stock he must add words of value for 
his special work. The careful study of the diction of a 
single great story will yield richer results than the hasty 
reading of a score, be they never so famous. No one 
truly possesses a word until he knows its exact meaning, 

1 Professor Albert E. Hancock says: "An author's vocab- 
ulary is of two kinds, latent and dynamic: latent — those words 
he understands; dynamic — those he can readily use. Every 
intelligent man knows all the words he needs, but he may not 
have them all ready for active service. The problem of literary 
diction consists in turning the latent into the dynamic. 5 * 



understands its relation to other words, and has it ready 
for use. 

How can this be accomplished? 

I. Gather Words from the Stories of Elective Writers, 

Determination and method will do wonders. When 
you see a familiar word used in an unfamiliar sense, jot 
it down, look it up, and master it. I have in mind a 
writer and speaker of superior attainments who acquired 
his vocabulary by noting all new words he heard or read. 
These he mastered and put into use. Soon his vocabu- 
lary became large, varied, and exact. Use a new word 
accurately five times and it is yours. 

2. Form the Dictionary Habit 

Do not be content with your general knowledge of 
a word. Press your inquiry until you have grasped its 
individual shade of meaning and usage. Fluency may 
become despicable, but accuracy never. The dictionary 
contains the crystallized usage of intellectual giants. No 
one who would write effectively dare despise its defini- 
tions and discriminations. 

3. Seek Diligently for the Right Word 

This involves a careful study of synonyms and an- 
tonyms. Fortunately, there is no lack of excellent man- 
uals for ready reference. 

" I am growing so peevish about my writing," says 


Flaubert. "I am like a man whose ear is true, but 
who plays falsely on the violin: his fingers refuse to 
reproduce precisely those sounds of which he has the 
inward sense. Then the tears come rolling down from 
the poor scraper's eyes and the bow falls from his 
hand." 2 

The same brilliant Frenchman sent this sound advice 
to Guy de Maupassant : 

" Whatever may be the thing which one wishes to 
say, there is but one word for expressing it, only one 
verb to animate it, only one adjective to qualify it. It 
is essential to search for this word, for this verb, for 
this adjective, until they are discovered, and to be satis- 
fied with nothing else." 

Walter Savage Landor once wrote, " I hate false 
words, and seek with care, difficulty and moroseness 
those that fit the thing." So did Sentimental Tommy, 
as related by James M. Barrie in his admirable novel 
bearing his hero's name as a title. 3 No wonder T. San- 
dys became an author and a lion ! 

Tommy, with another lad, is writing an essay on " A 
Day in Church," in competition for a university scholar- 
ship. He gets on finely until he pauses for lack of a 
word. For nearly an hour he searches for this elusive 
thing, until suddenly he is told that the allotted time is 
up, and he has lost ! Barrie may tell the rest : 

2 Quoted in Appreciations, Pater, p. 30. 

3 Sentimental Tommy, Scribner. 


Essay! It was no more an essay than a twig is a tree, for 
the gowk had stuck in the middle of his second page. Yes, 
stuck is the right expression, as his chagrined teacher had to 
admit when the boy was cross-examined. He had not been " up 
to some of his tricks " ; he had stuck, and his explanations, as 
you will admit, merely emphasized his incapacity. 

He had brought himself to public scorn for lack of a word. 
What word? they asked testily; but even now he could not tell. 
He had wanted a Scotch word that would signify how many 
people were in church, and it was on the tip of his tongue, but 
would come no farther. Puckle was nearly the word, but it did 
not mean so many people as he meant. The hour had gone by 
just like winking; he had forgotten all about time while search- 
ing his mind for the word. 

The other five [examiners] were furious. ..." You little 
tattie doolie," Cathro roared, "were there not a dozen words 
to wile from if you had an ill-will to puckle? What ailed you 
at manzy, or — " 

" I thought of manzy," replied Tommy, wofully, for he was 
ashamed of himself, "but — but a manzy's a swarm. It would 
mean that the folk in the kirk were buzzing thegither like bees, 
instead of sitting still." 

" Even if it does mean that," said Mr. Duthie, with impatience, 
"what was the need of being so particular? Surely the art of 
essay-writing consists in using the first word that comes and 
hurrying on." 

"That's how I did," said the proud McLauchlan [Tommy's 
successful competitor]. . . . 

"I see," interposed Mr. Gloag, "that McLauchlan speaks of 
there being a mask of people in the church. Mask is a fine 
Scotch word." 

" I thought of mask," whimpered Tommy, " but that would 
mean the kirk was crammed, and I just meant it to be middling 

"Flow would have done," suggested Mr. Lorrimer. 

"Flow's but a handful," said Tommy. 

" Curran, then, you jackanapes!" 

" Curran's no enough." 


Mr. Lorrimer flung up his hands in despair. 

" I wanted something between curran and mask," said Tommy, 
doggedly, yet almost at the crying. 

Mr. Ogilvy, who had been hiding his admiration with difficulty, 
spread a net for him. " You said you wanted a word that meant 
middling full. Well, why did you not say middling full — or 
fell mask?" 

" Yes, why not ? " demanded the ministers, unconsciously 
caught in the net. 

" I wanted one word," replied Tommy, unconsciously avoid- 
ing it. 

"You jewel!" muttered Mr. Ogilvy under his breath, but 
Mr. Cathro would have banged the boy's head had not the 
ministers interfered. 

" It is so easy, too, to find the right word," said Mr. Gloag. 

" It's no ; it's as difficult as to hit a squirrel," cried Tommy, 
and again Mr. Ogilvy nodded approval. 

And then an odd thing happened. As they were preparing to 
leave the school [Cathro having previously run Tommy out by 
the neck], the door opened a little and there appeared in the 
aperture the face of Tommy, tear-stained but excited. " I ken 
the word now," he cried, " it came to me a' at once ; it is hantle ! " 

Mr. Ogilvy . . . said in an ecstasy to himself, "He had 
to think of it till he got it — and he got it. The laddie is a 
genius ! " 

4. Discuss Words With Those Who Know Them 

Since the short-story closely follows the diction of 
everyday speech, many useful words may be acquired 
in conversation with cultivated men. And when such 
discussion takes the form of disputation as to the mean- 
ings and usages of words, it must prove doubly valuable. 
The development of word-power marches with the 
growth of individuality. 


5. Do not Overlook the Value of Translating Languages 
6. Study Word Derivations 

A flood of light may stream over a subject when the 
origin of a word is disclosed. A prefix or a suffix may 
essentially change the force of the stem, as in r.iaster-fnl 
and master-ly, contempt-ible and contenipt-uous, envi-ous 
and envi-able. Thus to study words in groups, according 
to their stems, prefixes and suffixes, is to gain a mastery 
over their shades of meaning, and introduce us to other 
related words. 

7. Do not Favor one Set or Kind of Words more than 

" Sixty years and more ago, Lord Brougham, address- 
ing the students of the University of Glasgow, laid down " 
the rule that the native (Anglo-Saxon) part of our vo- 
cabulary was to be favored at the expense of that other 
part which has come from the Latin and Greek. The - 
rule was an impossible one, and Lord Brougham himself 
never tried seriously to observe it ; nor, in truth, has any 
great writer made the attempt. Not only is our language 
highly composite, but the component words have, in De 
Quincey's phrase, ' happily coalesced.' It is easy to jest 
at words in -osity and -ation, as ' dictionary ' words, and 
the like. But even Lord Brougham would have found it 
difficult to dispense with pomposity and imagination!' 4 

4 Handbook of English Composition, Hart, p. 341 (Hinds, 
Hayden & Eldredge, New York). 


Acquiring a Vocabulary 

1. Gather Words From Effective Writers 

2. Form the Dictionary Habit 

3. Seek Diligently for the Right Word 

4. Discuss the Meanings of Words 

5. Translate Foreign Languages 

6. Study Word Derivations 

7. Practise Variety 



The more we study, the more we discover our ignorance. 
—Shelley, Scenes from Calderon. 

Let the student take any representative short-story and 
make a study of the author's method, noting the merits 
and the defects of the story, with particular reference to 
its essential parts, after the manner of the dissecting 
method employed in the following study. First read the 
story through to gain a general impression; then sum- 
marize that impression as briefly as possible. Next write 
out a short scenario. Read the story a third time, slowly, 
to make a study of its parts, noting results as in the ap- 
pended example. 



Happy are they whom life satisfies, who can amuse them- 
selves, and be content . . . who have not discovered, with 
a vast disgust, . . . that all things are a weariness. — Guy 
de Maupassant. 



Maupassant was a Latin of good, clear, solid head, a maker 
of beautiful sentences shining like gold, pure as the diamond 
. . . having the good sense, logic, balance, power, and clear- 
ness of the old French blood. — £mile Zola. 

He who destroys the ideal destroys himself. In art and in 
life Maupassant lived in the lower order of facts, the brutal 
world of events unrelated to a spiritual order. He drained his 
senses of the last power of sensation and reaction; he plunged 
headlong into the sensual life upon which they opened when 
the luminous heaven above the material world was obliterated. 
Madness always lies that way as a matter of physiology as well 
as of morals, and Maupassant went the tragic way of the sensual- 
ist since time began. — Hamilton W. Mabie. 

Maupassant saw life with his senses, and he reflected on it 
in a purely animal revolt, the recoil of the hurt animal. His 
observation is not, as it has been hastily assumed to be, cold ; 
it is as superficially emotional as that of the average sensual 
man, and its cynicism is only another, not less superficial, kind 
of feeling. He saw life in all its details, and his soul was en- 
tangled in the details. He saw it without order, without recom- 
pense, without pity; he saw it too clearly to be duped by appear- 
ances, and too narrowly to distinguish any light beyond what 
seemed to him the enclosing bounds of darkness. — Arthur 

Maupassant was the most finished short-story writer of all; 
but he lacked spiritual power, and so he missed much of the 
world's beauty. An inflexible realist, he pressed his method 
farther than did Flaubert, his uncle and preceptor. From life's 
raw materials he wove incomparably brilliant fiction-fabrics, 
equally distinguished for plot, characterization, and style. Be- 
sides " The Necklace," his ablest short-stories are " The Ven- 
detta," "The Piece of String," "The Horla," "A Coward," 
"Tallow-ball," "Moonlight," "Little Soldier," "The Confes- 
sion," and "The Wreck." Thirteen of his stories have been 
collected in "The Odd Number" (Harper), with an Introduction 
Iby Henry James. — J. B. E. „ 



(Published in 1885. Length about three thousand words). 

She was one of those pretty and 
charming girls who, as if by an er- 
ror of destiny, are born into a fam- 
ily of clerks. She had no dowry, 
no expectations, no means of being 
known, understood, loved, wedded, 
by any rich and distinguished man, 
and she let herself be married to a 
minor clerk at the Ministry of Public 

2. She dressed plainly since she 
could not dress well, but she was as 
unhappy as a woman who has really 
fallen from her proper station ; for 
women have neither caste nor race; 
their beauty, grace, and charm act 
instead of family and birth. Natural 
fineness, instinct for what is elegant, 
suppleness of wit, are their sole 
hierarchy, and make from women of 
the people the equals of the greatest 
of great ladies. 

3. She suffered endlessly, feeling 
herself born for all the delicacies and 
all the luxuries of life. She suffered 
on account of the poverty of her 
dwelling, from the wretched look of 
the walls, from the dilapidated chairs, 
from the ugliness of the curtains. 
All those things of which another 
woman of her caste would never 
even have been conscious, tortured 
her and made her angry. The sight 
of the little Breton servant who did 
her humble housework aroused in 
her despairing regrets and distracted 

Character-study of central 

Pessimistic view of life, 
French atmosphere sug- 
Hint of unhappy tone. 
Note force of " let." 

Note compression of fl 1. 

Catastrophe strikes the tone. 

Author philosophizes. 

Aufhof himself a man of 
good family. 

Key sentence, elaborated 
throughout fl }. 

Maupassant's own love of 
the refinements of life 
would dictate this. 

Setting by contrast. 



dreams. She thought of the silent 
antechambers hung with Oriental 
fabrics, lighted by tall bronze can- 
delabra, and with two great footmen 
in knee-breeches who dozed in the 
big arm-chairs, made drowsy by the 
heavy warmth of the stove. She 
dreamed of the long salons fitted up 
with old silk, of the delicate furni- 
ture carrying priceless curiosities, 
and of the coquettish perfumed 
boudoirs made for talks at five o'clock 
with intimate friends, with men fa- 
mous and sought after, whose notice 
all women envy and desire. 

4. When she sat down to dine be- 
fore the round table covered with a 
cloth three days old, opposite her 
husband, who, as he uncovered the 
soup-tureen, declared with an en- 
chanted air, " Ah, the good old stew ! 
I don't know anything better than 
that," she thought of dainty dinners, 
of gleaming silverware, of tapestry 
which peopled the walls with ancient 
personages and with strange birds in 
the midst of a fairy forest; and she 
dreamed of delicious dishes served 
on wondrous plates, and of the whis- 
pered gallantries to which you listen 
with a sphinx-like smile, while eating 
the pink flesh of a trout or the wing 
of a fowl. 

5. She had no fine dresses, no jew- 
els, nothing. And she loved nothing 
else; she felt that she was made for 
that She would so have liked to 
please, to be envied, to be charming 
and sought after. 

We feel the contrast just as 
the heroine does. 


Throughout, Maupassant pro- 
ceeds from the general 
to the particular. 

Discontent still more partic 

Summary o? Introduction, 

which ends here. 
Foundation *or main 




6. She had a rich friend, a former 
schoolmate at the convent, whom she 
did not like to go and see any more, 
because she suffered so much when 
she came home. She wept whole 

7. One evening her husband re- 
turned home with a conqueror's air, 
holding a large envelope in his 

8. " There," said he, " is something 
for you." 

9. She tore the paper sharply, and 
drew out a printed card on which 
were these words: 

10. "The Minister of Public In- 
struction and Mme. Georges Ram- 
ponneau ask the honor of M. and 
Mme. Loisel's company at the palace 
of the Ministry on Monday evening, 
January 18th." 

11. Instead of being overjoyed, as 
her husband hoped, she threw the 
invitation on the table with disdain, 

12. "What do you expect me to 
do with that?" 

13. "Why, my dear, I thought you 
would be glad. You never go out, 
and this is a fine opportunity ! I had 
tremendous difficulty in getting it. 
Every one wants to go ; they are 
greatly sought after, and they are 
not giving many to clerks. The 
whole official world will be there." 

14. She looked at him with an irri- 
tated eye, and said, impatiently: 

15. "And what do you expect me 
to put on my back?" 

Character description by 

First plot incident. 

Note "sharply.' 

Name mentioned for the 

first time, and then only 

Mention of locality here and 

there fixes the setting as 

being in Paris. 





16. He had not thought of that. 

17. "Why," he stammered, "the 
dress you wear to the theater. It 
looks very well to me — " 

18. He stopped, stupefied, seeing 
that his wife was weeping. Two 
great tears ran slowly from the cor- 
ners of her eyes towards the corners 
of her mouth. 

19. "What's the matter?" he stut- 
tered. "What's the matter?" 

20. But by a violent effort she had 
conquered her grief, and she replied, 
in a calm voice, as she wiped her 
wet cheeks: 

21. "Nothing; only I have no 
dress, and therefore I can't go to 
this ball. Give your card to some 
colleague whose wife is better 
equipped than I." 

22. He was in despair. He re- 
sumed : 

23. " Come, let us see, Mathilde. 
How much would it cost, a suitable 
dress which you could use on other 
occasions ; something very simple ? " 

24. She reflected a few seconds, 
making her calculations and also 
wondering what sum she could ask 
without drawing on herself an im- 
mediate refusal and a shocked ex- 
clamation from the economical clerk. 

25. Finally she replied, hesitat- 
ingly : 

26. "I don't know exactly, but I 
think I could manage with four hun- 
dred francs." 

27. He grew a little pale, for he 
had laid aside just that amount to 

Just as tears really flow. 

Stammering, stuttering, and 
blank questions show stu- 

Most writers would have 
said " eyes." 

Developing incident. 

Contrast her passionate dis- 
position with his practi- 
cality throughout. 

Hint at character, which i3 
disclosed without formal 



buy a gun and treat himself to a 
little summer shooting on the plain 
of Nanterre, with several friends 
who went to shoot larks down 
there, on Sundays. 

28. But he said: 

29. " All right. I will give you 
four hundred francs. And try to 
have a pretty dress." 

30. The day of the ball drew near, 
and Mme. Loisel seemed sad, un- 
easy, anxious. Her dress was ready, 
however. Her husband said to her 
one evening: 

31. "What is the matter? Come, 
you've been very queer these last 
three days." 

2,2. And she replied: 

33. " It linnoys me to have not a 
single jewel, not a single stone, noth- 
ing to put on. I shall look like dis- 
tress. I should almost rather not 
go at all." 

34. He rejoined: 

35. " You might wear natural flow- 
ers. They are very stylish at this 
time of year. For ten francs you 
can get two or three magnificent 

36. She was not convinced. 

37. " No ; there's nothing more hu- 
miliating than to look poor among 
other women who are rich." 

38. But her husband cried: 

39. " How stupid you are ! Go 
hunt up your friend Mme. Forestier, 
and ask her to lend you some jewels. 
You're quite thick enough with her 
to do that." 

Local color. Scarcely any 

in this story. 
Thoughtless and dense, but 

not really selfish. 

End of minor crisis. 

This entire incident not only 
reveals character but lays 
the foundation for the 
main crisis. 

Further foundation for 
main CRISIS. 

See S 6. 

Further progress 
main CRISIS. 



40. She uttered a cry of joy. 

41. ** It's true. I never thought of 

42. The next day she went to her 
friend and told of her trouble. 

43. Mme. Forestier went to a 
wardrobe with a glass door, took out 
a large jewel-case, brought it back 
to Mme. Loisel, opened it, and said: 

44. " Choose, my dear." 

45. She saw first of all some brace- 
lets, then a pearl necklace, then a 
Venetian cross, all gold and precious 
stones, an admirable piece of work- 
manship. She tried on the orna- 
ments before the glass, hesitated, 
could not make up her mind to part 
with them, to give them back. She 
kept asking: 

46. " Haven't you any more ? " 

47. "Why, yes, look. I don't 
know what may strike your fancy." 

48. Suddenly she discovered in a 
black satin box a superb necklace of 
diamonds; and her heart began to 
beat with an immoderate desire. 
Her hands trembled as she took it 
up. She fastened it around her 
throat, outside her high-necked 
dress, and remained lost in ecstasy 
at the sight of her own image. 

49. Then she asked, hesitatingly, 
in an anguish of suspense: 

50. " Can ycu lend me this, only 

51. "Why, yes, certainly." 

52. She sprang upon the neck of 
her friend, kissed her passionately, 
then fled with her treasure. 

No waste talk. 

Some might call this the 
true crisis. Second Plot 

Local color. 

Note compression through- 

Character development. 

See how unconsciously she 
invites her fate. 

The author has a right to 
mislead the reader for 
the sake of a later sur- 
prise, but here Mau- 
passant makes a false 
statement while speak- 
ing as the author. This 
is unjustifiable. 

Contrast with ff 49. 

Minor climax, and impor- 

main crisis. 



53. The day of the ball arrived. 
Mme. Loisel made a triumph. She 
was prettier than them all, — elegant, 
gracious, smiling, and mad with joy. 
All the men stared at her, asked her 
name, endeavored to be introduced. 
All the attaches of the Cabinet 
wanted to waltz with her. She was 
noticed by the Minister himself. 

54. She danced with intoxication, 
with passion, drunk with pleasure, 
forgetting all in the triumph of her 
beauty, in the glory of her success, 
in a sort of cloud of happiness com- 
posed of all that homage, of all that 
admiration, of all those awakened 
desires, and of that complete victory 
which is so sweet to woman's heart. 

55. She left about four o'clock in 
the morning. Her husband had been 
sleeping since midnight in a little 
deserted anteroom, with three other 
gentlemen whose wives were having 
a very good time. 

56. He threw over her shoulders 
the wraps which he had brought — 
modest garments of everyday life, 
whose poverty contrasted with the 
elegance of her ball dress. She felt 
this, and wanted to escape so as not 
to be noticed by the other women 
who were enveloping themselves in 
costly furs. 

57. Loisel held her back. 

58. "Wait a little. You'll catch 
cold outside. I'll go and call a cab." 

59. She did not heed him, but 
rapidly descended the stairs. When 
they were in the street, they could 

Third Plot Incident. 

Contrast The partial at- 
tainment of her desires 
produces a marked change 
in atmosphere. 

Climax by arrangement. 

Fourth Plot Incident. 

Character contrast, supported 
by surroundings — blazing 
ball-room, deserted ante- 
room. Irony. 

A trifle sardonic. 

Touch of nature. 

Consistently dense. 

Preparation for main 
crisis well hidden. 



not find a disengaged carriage, and 
began to look for one, shouting after 
the cabmen whom they saw passing 
at a distance. 

60. They went down towards the 
Seine, in despair, shivering with 
cold. At last they found on the 
quay one of those ancient noctam- 
bulant coupes, which, just as if they 
were ashamed to uncover their mis- 
ery during the day, are never seen in 
Paris until after nightfall. 

61. It took them to their door in 
the Rue des Martyrs, and once more, 
now sadly, they climbed up to their 
apartment. All was ended for her. 
And as for him, he reflected that he 
must be at the Ministry by ten 

62. She removed the wraps which 
covered her shoulders, standing be- 
fore the glass, so as once more to 
see herself in all her glory. But 
suddenly she uttered a cry. The 
necklace was no longer around her 

63. Her husband, already half un- 
dressed, demanded : 

64. "What is the matter with 

65. She turned madly towards him. 

66. " I have — I have — I've lost 
Mme. Forestier's necklace." 

67. He sprang up, distracted. 

68. " What !— how ?— Impossible ! " 

69. And they looked in the folds 
of the dress, in the folds of the cloak, 
in all the pockets, everywhere. They 
did not find it. 

Local color. 

First mention of their home 

" place." 
Note fall of spirits in the 

Still acting " in character." 


Main crisis begins. 

Note emotional expression in 
these paragraphs. 



70. He asked : 

71. " You're sure you had it on 
when you left the ball ? " 

72. " Yes, I felt it in the vestibule 
of the palace." 

73. " But, if you had lost it in the 
street we should have heard it fall. 
It must be in the cab." 

74. "Yes. Probably. Did you 
take the number?" 

75. "No. Didn't you notice it?" 

76. " No." 

77. Thunderstruck, they looked at 
one another. At last Loisel put on 
his clothes. 

78. " I shall go back on foot," said 
he, " over the whole distance we 
walked, to see if I can't find it." 

79. And he went out. She sat 
there on a chair in her ball dress, 
without strength to go to bed, over- 
whelmed, without fire, without a 

80. Her husband came back about 
seven o'clock. He had found noth- 

81. He went to Police Headquar- 
ters, to the newspaper offices, to offer 
a reward; he went to the cab com- 
panies — everywhere, in fact, whither 
he was urged by the least suspicion 
of hope. 

82. She waited all day, in the same 
state of mad fear in the face of this 
terrible calamity. 

83. Loisel returned at night with 
hollow, pale cheeks; he had discov- 
ered nothing. 


Emotion shown by inaction. 


Note natural order of his 
efforts at recovering the 




84. "You must write to your 
friend," said he, "that you have 
broken the clasp of her necklace, and 
that you are having it mended. That 
will give us time to turn around." 

85. She wrote at his dictation. 

86. At the end of a week they 
had lost all hope, 

87. And Loisel, who had aged five 
years, declared: 

88. "We must consider how to re- 
place the necklace." 

89. The next day they took the box 
which had contained it, and they 
went to the jeweler whose name was 
within. He consulted his books. 

90. " It was not I, Madame, who 
sold that necklace ; I simply furnished 
the case." 

91. Then they went from jeweler 
to jeweler, searching for a necklace 
like the other, consulting their mem- 
ories, fairly sick, both of them, with 
chagrin and with anguish. 

92. In a shop at the Palais Royal 
they found a string of diamonds 
which seemed to them exactly like 
the one she had lost. It was worth 
forty thousand francs, but they could 
have it for thirty-six thousand. 

93. So they begged the jeweler not 
to sell it for three days, making a 
bargain that he should buy it back 
for thirty-four thousand francs, in 
case they found the lost necklace be- 
fore the end of February. 

94. Loisel had eighteen thousand 
francs which his father had left him. 
He would borrow the rest. 

The practical mind domi- 
nates the emotional tem- 
perament in this crisis. 

Emotional excitement de- 
clines, suspense subdued. 

Despair shown by short sen- 

Description by suggestion. 

Fifth Plot Incident. 

Forecast of denouement, yet 
not disclosed. 

Sixth Plot Incident. 
Then (1885) the jewelry 
center of Paris. 





95. He did borrow, asking a thou- 
sand francs of one, five hundred of 
another, five louis here, three louis 
there. He gave notes, assumed ruin- 
ous obligations, dealt with usurers, 
and all the race of money lenders. 
He compromised all the rest of his 
life, risked his signature without 
even knowing if he would be able to 
meet it; and, frightened by the pangs 
yet to come, by the black misery 
which was about to fall upon him, 
by the prospect of all the physical 
privations and of all the moral tor- 
tures he was yet to suffer, he went 
for the new necklace and put down 
upon the merchant's counter the thir- 
ty-six thousand francs. 

96. When Mme. Loisel returned 
the necklace, Mme. Forestier said, 
with a chilly manner: 

97. "You ought to have returned 
it sooner. I might have needed it." 

98. However, she did not open the 
case, as her friend had so much 
dreaded. If she had detected the 
substitution, what would she have 
thought, what would she have said? 
Would she not have taken her for 
a thief? 

99. Madame Loisel now experi- 
enced the horrible existence of the 
needy. But she took her part, all on 
a sudden, with real heroism. That 
dreadful debt must be paid. She 
would pay it. They dismissed their 
servant; they changed their lodgings; 
they rented a garret under the roof. 

Climax of sentence arrange- 
ment suggests how he 
drained his borrowing ca- 

Main Crisis Ends. Hence- 
forward we get results of 
the crisis. 

No details between fl 95 and 
IT 96. 

Seventh Plot Incident. 

Mme. Loisel reasons. 

Character transformation 

through trouble. 



ioo. She came to know what heavy 
housework meant and the odious 
tasks of the kitchen. She washed 
the dishes, wearing away her rosy 
nails on the greasy pots and pans. 
She washed the dirty linen, the 
shirts and dish cloths, which she 
dried upon a line; she carried the 
slops down to the street every morn- 
ing, and carried up the water, stop- 
ping to take breath at every landing. 
And, dressed like a woman of the 
people, she went to the fruiterer's, 
the grocer's, the butcher's, her bas- 
ket on her arm, bargaining, insulted, 
defending her pitiful money sou by 

101. Each month they had to meet 
some notes, renew others, beg for 
more time. 

102. Her husband worked evenings 
straightening out some tradesman's 
accounts, and late at night he would 
copy manuscript for five sous a page. 

103. And this life lasted ten years. 

104. At the end of ten years they 
had paid everything, everything, with 
the charges of usurers, and the ac- 
cumulations of compound interest. 

105. Mme. Loisel looked old now. 
She had become the woman of im- 
poverished households — strong and 
hard and rough. With frowsy hair, 
skirts askew, and red hands, she 
talked loudly while washing the floor 
with great splashing of water. But 
sometimes, when her husband was 
at the office, she sat down near the 
window, and she thought of that gay 

Compare this with her com- 
paratively easy former 
state, f s 2, 3. 

Careful detail. 

Suspense suggested again. 

Note power of this simple 
climactic statement of re- 
sult of crisis, also empha- 
sis by repetition. 

Intensifies former crisis. 

Results of crisis. 

Tremendous contrast with fl 

Whole nature changed 
through struggle and en- 



evening of long ago, of that ball 
where she had been so fair and so 

106. What would have happened if 
she had not lost that necklace? 
Who knows? Who knows? How 
strange is life, and how changeful ! 
How little a thing is needed to ruin 
or to save us! 

107. But one Sunday, having gone 
to take a walk in the Champs filysees 
to refresh herself after the labors of 
the week, she suddenly observed a 
woman who was leading a child. It 
was Mme. Forestier, still young, still 
beautiful, still fascinating. 

108. Mme. Loisel was moved. 
Should she speak to her? Yes, cer- 
tainly. And now that she had paid, 
she was going to tell her all about 
it. Why not? 

109. She approached her. 
no. " Good-day, Jeanne." 

in. The other, astonished at be- 
ing familiarly addressed by this plain 
goodwife, did not recognize her at 
all, and stammered : 

112. "But — Madame! — I don't 
know — You must be mistaken." 

113. " No, I am Mathilde Loisel." 

114. Her friend uttered a cry. 

115. "Oh, my poor Mathilde! 
How you have changed ! " 

116. " Yes, I have had days hard 
enough since I last saw you, days 
wretched enough — and all because 
of you ! " 

117. "Because of me! How so?" 

118. "You remember that diamond 

Moral oe the story, sum- 

This pervades the whole 

Eighth Plot Incident. 

Minor crisis of this meet- 
ing prepares for full cli- 

Contrast with Mme. Loisel. 

Note swift rise to climax. 
Emotion shown in rapid, 
short sentences, crisp and 
direct. All details and 
comments are suppressed. 



necklace you lent me to wear at the 
Ministers' ball?" 

119. "Yes. Well?" 

120. " Well, I lost it." 

121. "What do you mean? You 
brought it back." 

122. " I brought you another just 
like it. And we have been ten years 
paying for it. You may imagine 
that it was not easy for us — who 
had nothing. But at last it is ended, 
and I am very glad." 

123. Mme. Forestier stopped. 

124. " You say that you bought a 
diamond necklace to replace mine?" 

125. "Yes. You never noticed it, 
then ! They were very like." 

126. And she smiled with a joy 
which was at once proud and naive. 

127. Mme. Forestier, strongly 
moved, took her two hands. 

128. "Oh, my poor Mathilde! 
Why, my necklace was paste. It was 
worth at most five hundred francs ! " 

Climax, denouement, and 

Denouement forecast in fi 

Naturally, Mme. Forestier 
returned the jewels, but 
the ten years could not 
be returned, nor all they 
cost and wrought. Mau- 
passant is too wi6e to tell 
a word of this. 




1. What kind of story is this? 

2. Is the title adequate? 

3. What is the theme of this story? 

4. Write out a brief scenario of the plot. 


5. How many characters (a) speak, (b) are present but do 
not speak, (c) are referred to but are not present? 

6. What is the proportion of dialogue to description and 

7. What is the author's attitude toward his characters? 

8. Are the characters idealized? 

9. Do you regard this story as being either realistic or ro- 

10. Is the author's purpose apparent? 

11. Do you find any defects in the story in any respect? 

12. What is the final impression the story makes upon you? 

Note: Nine distinct methods for the study of a novel are 
outlined in the appendix to Whitcomb's The Study of a Novel. 
Some of these may be applied to the short-story. 




Perhaps the greatest lesson which the lives of literary men 
teach us is told in a single word : Wait ! — Longfellow, Hy- 

There is probably no hell for authors in the next world — 
they suffer so much from publishers and critics in this. — Bovee, 
Summaries of Thought; Authors. 






Write till your ink be dry; and with your tears moist it 
again. — Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Verona. 

It is no use to write a book and put it by for nine or even 
ninety years; for in the writing you will have partly convinced 
yourself; the delay must precede any beginning; and if you 
meditate a work of art, you should first long roll the subject 
under the tongue to make sure you like the flavor, before you 
brew a volume that shall taste of it from end to end. — Steven- 
son, The Morality of the Profession of Letters. 

When shall I begin the actual writing of my story ? 

No one can tell you that — though plenty will try. 
After reading all the rhetorical treatises and books of 
advice, excellent as they are, you still must work out 
your own problem. The habits of successful authors dif- 
fer. It will not help you to know that one plunges 
headlong into his story as soon as he has selected the 
theme, trusting to the heat of inspiration to carry him 
through, but it may be encouragement to learn that the 
great majority map out their work beforehand, so as- 
sembling their material as to have every point well in 



hand before actual writing begins. Try both ways and 
adopt the method that yields the best results. David 
could not fight in Saul's armor. 

I. The Management of Notes 

I assume that you will at least try the more methodical 
plan of taking notes. Perhaps you will even write out 
scraps of description and conversation. The next thing 
will be to draft the outline of your plot. Test it for 
balance (proportion), climax, order of the crises, sus- 
pense, concealed denouement, and whatever other con- 
siderations you wish to observe. Then carefully fashion 
the introduction, and after you have finished it, write the 
rest of the story at white heat. Don't bother about rules 
then. If they have not formed themselves into an un- 
conscious sense of judgment, it will not avail to keep 
them before you while doing the first writing. Above 
all, don't follow this, or any other, method of work if 
it doesn't fit you. 

2. Revision 

I have said the first writing because, whatever be your 
method of writing, revise you must if you intend to 
produce an artistic piece of work. " The writing of 
what will not do is often an indispensable preliminary 
to the writing of what will do." x Once in a while it 
will pay you to employ a literary critic to go over your 
story. At all events read your work aloud to yourself, 

1 The Art and Craft of the Author, Heisch, p. 14. 


and if you read it also to others seek their criticism, not 
their praise. I wish I could show you a certain piece of 
discarded manuscript of " Mark Twain's." He has re- 
cast one sentence six or seven times, and every stroke 
of his pen has left a record of growing perfection of 
expression. At first, it is evident, his thought was 
general and hazy, but with the labor of revising his 
expression, the thought itself clarifies, until finally the 
expression is as crystal clear as his perfected thought. 

Sometimes you will have to revise until the cutting 
actually hurts. " I remember, when I was young," says 
Sir Arthur Helps, " writing some paper — about sani- 
tary matters I think it was — and showing it to an older 
and much wiser friend. I dare say it was full of the 
exuberant faults of youthfulness. He said to me, ' My 
dear fellow, I foresee that this is not the only thing you 
will write. Let me give you a bit of advice. Whenever 
you write a sentence that particularly pleases you, cut 
it out/ " 2 

Yes, you must revise. You must recast. You must 
even rewrite — " seventy times seven," which, being a 
parable, means unto the measure of perfection. But do 
not revise the ginger out of your story. Be not, as 
Cowper put it, " more nice than wise." " If," said 
William Matthews, "you cannot put fire into your story, 
you can at least put your story into the fire." 

Write at white heat because you can think big thoughts 
only under stress of emotion ; but revise in a cool mood. 

2 Quoted in Hill's Principles of Rhetoric, from Helps' Social 


In the hour of revision, Judgment, not Emotion, sits ton 
the Throne; but Emotion must still stand at his right 
hand to inspire and guide. Patience and persistence mean 
much here. Sometimes you will revise until you feel 
sick of the whole story and ready to burn your last char- 
acter at the stake. Perhaps you ought to, but perhaps 
it is better to lay the story aside for a clearer-visioned 
hour, and then it may grow into the similitude of your 

Young writers are apt to despise this plodding prog- 
ress. They prefer to see the building rise by enchant- 
ment. The easy, graceful style of some popular writers 
deludes them into thinking that the structural work was 
easy. The scaffolding they cannot see, nor the hewing 
of stone, nor the cutting of timber. But the magic wand 
of the builder is the two-foot rule, and his enchanter's 
ball is the plummet. 

I have already referred to Poe's disclosure of his 
method in writing " The Raven," 3 besides quoting at 
length the experiences of Wilkie Collins and Sir Walter 
Besant. None of these, nor a thousand others worthy 
of emulation found that labored composition dulled the 
edge of inspiration. " I cannot revise," a young writer 
once said to me, " it takes all the life out of my story." 
After years of writing she has made no progress. We 
have testimony enough to show that the practice of the 
best authors has been to labor long over their manu- 
scripts, revising, as did " Miss Mulock," even up to the 

3 Philosophy of Composition. 


fourteenth time. 4 Where one strong story is conceived 
and finished in a few hours, a thousand require all the 
pains which mark the production of any other work of 
art. Ruskin has pointed out 5 that composition means 
to place carefully, designingly, together — not to throw 
together, as a laborer would toss a pile of stones into a 
cart. The mosaics of St. Peter's at Rome are only sim- 
ple bits of stone and glass, but how wonderfully they 
have been composed! 

3. Preparing the Manuscript 

Must I typewrite my story? 

You need not, but you ought to. Hand-script is dif- 
ficult to read at best and irritates your very busy judge; 
the manuscript reader cannot give full attention to your 
fiction if the act of reading becomes laborious; uncon- 
sciously he regards hand-script as the sign manual of in- 
experience; and, lastly, it is much easier for you and for 
the editor to gain a complete impression of a typed story 
than of one which must be read slowly and whose script 
conveys no suggestion as to its final appearance on the 
printed page. 

Neatness counts for as much in a manuscript as clean 
cuffs on a salesman. If you must revise the typed copy, 
do it with the same color of ink as that of the typewritten 

4 See Erichsen's Methods of Authors, Bainton's The Art of 
Authorship, the chapter on How Authors Work, in How to 
Write a Novel, and a rich chapter on The Process of Com- 
position in Whitcomb's The Study of a Novel. 

5 Third letter on The Elements of Drawing. 


page. Any unabridged dictionary will give you a list 
of proofreader's marks. 

Be sure to use double space in typewriting. You have 
no idea how appalling it is to face a long story, badly 
typed, on poor paper, and every line huddled between 
two others. 

Keep your typewriting machine in good order, clean 
out the types, and see to it that no inadvertent marks are 
constantly being made on the paper to confuse the edi- 
tor. Watch the paragraphing, correct the spelling, leave 
generous margins, and don't use tissue paper. 

The short-story is too short to warrant your dividing 
it into chapters. If breaks are needed, use Roman 
numerals or simply leave a blank line. 

Do editors take such little things into account when 
selecting stories? 

The editor's only tool is his judgment. Anything — 
from flies in hot weather to cold feet in winter, from a 
crying baby the night before to a Bohemian repast — 
may befog this precious asset. You are not responsible 
for these distractions, but find him — just once in thirty 
days — in a bad humor, and then hand him a manuscript 
typed with | a | bar, | marked | by | a | reckless | ma- 
chine, | after ] every | word, and then give him a 
second story with spasmodic * ; punctuation, - marks '... 
hiccoughing " along every line, and ask yourself whether 
you, in his place, could judge those stories seriously and 
with the same fairness with which you would consider 
the perfectly typed manuscript. 

These are both actual cases, and I may add that, not- 


withstanding their defects, I bought both stories, but it 
was in spite of the handicaps placed upon them by the 
careless authors. 

Use letter size (&y 2 xn) white or cream paper, un- 
glazed, of good quality, neither extremely thin nor un- 
duly heavy. Prepare your first page thus: 

Miss Satin Robe, 3,ooo words. 

iioi Euclid Ave., 
Cleveland, Ohio. 
Stamped addressed 
envelope enclosed. 

By Satin Robe 

In estimating the number of words, count several lines 
on the average page in order to average the number of 
words to the line. Multiply by the number of lines to 
the page, and then by the number of pages. Count the 
short lines just as though they were full, and estimate 

Type or print your name and address, do not write 
it in script. Some writers use a small, plain rubber 
stamp with which to record their name and address on 
the upper left-hand corner of each page of their manu- 
script, to prevent straying leaves. 

Number (folio) your pages consecutively. 

Most literary agencies, and a few authors, cover and 
bind their manuscripts by cutting a piece of heavy paper, 


dark and not easily torn, to a size 12 x 8>^. The entire 
back of the manuscript is covered, the extra inch folded 
over the top, and the whole riveted through the top mar- 
gin. In typing your story be careful to leave enough 
margin so that the binding edge may not hide any part 
of the top line, or even make it hard to read. The first 
page may be kept clean by adding an extra sheet of let- 
ter-paper bearing precisely the same wording as you 
place at the top of the title page. 

Some editors prefer loose-leaved manuscripts, but no 
one seriously objects to bound manuscript if the pages 
can be handled with perfect ease and without danger of 
tearing, so do not pin your manuscript or use any freak 
style of binding or stitching that is not substantial, and is 
likely to cause you extra labor in the end. 

In a word, do all you can to make it easy for the pub- 
lisher's reader to pass upon your story. Of two stories 
of equal merit he will surely lean toward the one which 
has unconsciously pleased his eye. I have known it to 
be actually restful to turn to a neat, plain, clearly-written 
manuscript after being tortured into a headache by its 



Full many a gem of purest ray serene 
The dark, unfathomed caves of Ocean bear, 

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, 
And waste its sweetness on the desert air. 

— Gray, Elegy in a Country Churchyard. 

When he conceived these lines, had the poet before his 
mind's eye a vision of unsold manuscript? Doubtless 
many a disappointed author feels that the allusion is ap- 
propriate to his own undiscovered gems and flowers. 
However, most good stories finally see the light, for 
editors everywhere are keenly on the lookout for really 
good " stuff " — as manuscript is called, and not disre- 
spectfully. I estimate that it costs the leading magazine 
publishers of this country more than one hundred thou- 
sand dollars a year to read unsolicited manuscripts. This 
does not include professional and technical journals, or 
the countless smaller publications, many of which pay 
for fiction manuscript. The publisher and the editor do 
give writers — known or unknown — a fair chance. 

What is the best way to sell a short-story manuscript? 

There are four ways, each having merits of its own. 



i. The Ordered Manuscript 

This is a rare bird 2 for whose extinction editors are 
almost unanimously hoping. None but a writer who has 
shown that he is able to write the kind of story the edi- 
tor asks for, need ever hope to get an unqualified order 
for a short-story. Even then most authors freely con- 
fess that it is generally harder to do good work on an 
ordered story than on the manuscript written on specu- 

As the result of competition for the most popular ma- 
terial, a few much-sought-after writers have promised — 
perhaps to only two or three magazines — all they can 
write for many months ahead, but they know very well 
that they are expected to revise any unsatisfactory stories, 
and even substitute others if they cannot be brought up 
to editorial requirements. 

If such a policy were approved by his publisher, al- 
most any editor would feel reasonably safe in agreeing 
in advance to accept short-stories from any one of a 
group of our most brilliant American or British writers, 
for none of them would dream of foisting upon a maga- 
zine a really inferior piece of work, and most good writ- 
ers feel quite confident of their ability to dispose of their 
wares in open market. 

In arranging an order for a short-story, or for a series, 
the author generally submits an outline of the field and 
treatment proposed! If these appeal strongly, the order 
may be given and in nearly every case the transaction is 
consummated to the satisfaction of all concerned. But 


the writer whose work is not greatly in demand must 
not expect to receive advance orders for his stories, even 
when he submits a scenario or a partly completed manu- 
script. It is hard enough to judge a story when it lies 
complete before you, without attempting to forecast what 
it will be like when you have seen only a title, or at most 
an outline. 

2. The Literary Agent 1 

Many successful authors sell practically all their manu- 
scripts through agencies, most of which have European 
branches or connections. The usual arrangement is for 
the writer to set a maximum and a minimum price upon 
his story, pay a deposit to cover post and express charges, 
allowing to the agent a commission out of the price re- 
ceived from the publisher. Reputable agencies may be 
relied upon to make prompt settlement with the writer. 

The advantages claimed for his system by the agent 
are, that he keeps in touch with editorial tastes, peculiar- 
ities, and needs, and so is able to send just the kinds of 
manuscripts which are likely to be salable; that he is 
more likely than the author to know which magazines, 
syndicates and papers are overstocked, and which may 
have suddenly developed a special market; that he not 
only secures for -the author better prices, but also saves 
him the embarrassment of commercial dealings, thus en- 
abling him to pursue his art without the daily fear of con- 
fronting a rejection slip. 

1 See chapter in The Building of a Book, Hitchcock (Grafton 
Press, New York) — an excellent symposium covering all 
branches of the title-theme. 


Against all this it is urged, that agents have been 
known to send out batches of manuscript with obvious 
disregard for the expressed needs of the magazines ; 
that the writer had better study the magazine field him- 
self, and so save the agent's commission — when he sells 
his story; and that some agents have even proved to be 

So there are two sides to the question, and the author 
must decide — if, indeed, the agent upon his part is will- 
ing to undertake the sale of that author's work. There 
are a few really reliable literary agencies doing business 
on both sides of the Atlantic, and almost any editor will 
advise you (stamped addressed envelope enclosed in your 
letter to him) as to those he has found trustworthy. 
Authors living or sojourning abroad, those producing a 
considerable amount of manuscript, and those who pre- 
fer not to negotiate the sale of their own stories, will 
doubtless find a conservative agency a real boon. 

3. Calling on the Editor 

Many writers — chiefly those who are inexperienced — 
think that a personal interview with an editor will further 
the interests of their manuscripts. Therefore they use 
ingenious devices to secure a little — or much — of his 
time, from the letter of introduction to the plea that " a 
lady wishes to see the editor upon an important er- 

The practice among editors as to meeting unknown 
writers is as various as it is with other busy men and 


women. But, no matter who you are or who introduces 
you, it is a mistake to suppose that a personal talk will 
help the chances of your manuscript. It may even pre- 
possess the editor unfavorably. Upon the other hand, 
the editor may be able to give you valuable hints as to 
his special needs and likings. After that, it rests with 
the story. 

But, says the novice, how can I be sure that my manu- 
script will be read by the editor himself unless he prom- 
ises me to do so? 

Really, you cannot be sure; but you may be certain 
that the editor's assistants, who will read your story first, 
are as competent as the editor himself to say if your 
manuscript contains any promise ; and that if it is prom- 
ising, nothing can keep the editor from reading it, so 
eager is he to find material suitable for his pages. 

No editor is too busy to meet for the first time an 
author whose work he has accepted, or knows from its 
having appeared in other periodicals ; the length of that 
first call and the question of after visits, good taste alone 
will dictate. No man ever gained anything by being a 

Never expect an editor to read your story while you 
wait. He must do his work in a methodical fashion in 
order to get through at all; besides, he prefers to read 
it when his mind is undisturbed by any outside force. 
As I have already said, an editor's only stock in trade is 
his judgment, and naturally he is suspicious of any at- 
tempt to force it. 

When you leave your manuscript with the editor, do 


not insist upon an answer inside of two or three weeks. 
It may come earlier, but do not demand it. And do not 
forget to leave postage — not loose postage stamps, but 
a stamped and carefully addressed envelope of a size to 
fit your manuscript. You are a salesman trying to dis- 
pose of your product in a crowded market, and the eas- 
ier you make it to handle your manuscript — yes, even 
to the extent of making it easier to return it — the more 
cheerfully will your story be examined. It is a simple 
case of buying and selling. 

One word more : A " hard luck story," true and sor- 
rowful though it may be, will not influence the editor 
to buy your work. How could it? He is employed by 
a publisher who demands results, and the editor soon 
learns that it is cheaper, and more honest, to give char- 
ity from his private purse — never a fat one — than to 
allow his judgment to be swerved by sympathy. 

4. Offering the Story by Mail 

By far the greatest number of manuscripts sold are 
received by ordinary post. If you keep a carbon copy 
of your story — and you ought to — it is scarcely neces- 
sary to register the parcel. However, the publisher is 
not responsible for the loss of unsolicited manuscript. 

Never roll your manuscript. If your paper is letter 
size — and it should never be so large as foolscap — 
it will please an editor to have you send it flat, folded 
once, or folded twice, as suits your envelope. If you 


use note size, send the manuscript flat, or, at most, folded 
once. In a word, it will pay you to consider the con- 
venience of the person who is to pass upon your offering. 

If your manuscript has been out several times and 
shows signs of much reading, re-type the soiled pages 
and supply a new top-sheet. 

Manuscripts unaccompanied by proof sheets must 
carry full letter-postage in the United States. Do not 
forget to enclose full return postage, always in the form 
of a stamped and fully addressed envelope of appropriate 
size; never merely stick the stamps fast to your letter. 
Do not use flimsy envelopes which may be torn in the 
mails. Many a manuscript so enclosed is received in 
bad condition, and sometimes several of its pages are lost 
in transit. It adds unnecessarily to the cost of mailing 
and return to pack your manuscript between pasteboards. 

Never write long letters to the editor. They hurt 
rather than help. Recommendations and letters of in- 
troduction will not secure an acceptance. Neither will 
letters addressed to the editor and marked " personal." 
Except in rare instances, when an emergency justifies 
the editor's taking up a manuscript out of its regular or- 
der of receipt, or before one of his helpers has passed 
upon it, all manuscripts take the same course. You will 
hurt your standing with a magazine by constantly asking 
for special readings. It is enough to send your manu- 
script with your name affixed, or at most the briefest 
note, sent under the same cover as your story, in form 
somewhat like this; 


Cleveland, Ohio, Mar. i, 1909. 
Editor of Harper's Magazine, 
Franklin Square, 

New York City. 
Dear Sir: 

I submit herewith a short-story of three thousand 
words, entitled, " The Affair at Corson's," offered at 
your regular rates. Enclosed is a stamped addressed en- 

Very truly yours, 
Warren W. Hill, 

2000 Euclid Avenue. 

Don't ask for personal criticism of your story. That 
is the work of a professional critic, who will write you 
an opinion at regular rates. The editor is paid to do 
other things. He would like to help all young writers, 
but he is too busy. 

If you have sold enough manuscript to warrant it, 
you may wish to set a price upon your story, but by do- 
ing so you run a risk. No ordinary circumstance will 
lead an editor to deviate from his regular rate. The fact 
that you have sold one or two stories at five cents a 
word to one magazine will not warrant your expecting 
another to pay you more than its accustomed honorarium. 
At the same time, if your minimum rate is actually five 
or three or two cents a word, frankly say so and abide 
by the consequences. If you offer a manuscript " at 
regular rates " do not haggle about the price after your 
story has been accepted. Remember that some maga- 


zines pay " on acceptance," others pay " on publication," 
while others pay not at all. 

With what rights do you part when you sell a story? 

Customs differ. Many publishers insist upon pur- 
chasing " all rights,'' while others specify only " serial 
rights." " All rights " include foreign and American 
rights for book publication, serial or magazine rights, 
syndicate rights (the right to syndicate for publication 
in other periodicals, usually included in serial rights), 
and rights of dramatization and translation. If you wish 
to specify the kinds of rights you reserve, do so in the 
letter in which you offer the manuscript. Most maga- 
zine publishers are willing to allow the author to retain 
book and dramatic rights if the request is made when 
the short-story is sold. See that the receipt you sign 
specifies the rights you sell. 

You may secure American copyright for your story, 
but if you are dealing with a reputable publisher, better 
not. It will cost you a fee of fifty cents for each title, 
and a second half dollar in each case if you wish a cer- 
tificate of copyright entry. Blanks will be sent you upon 
application to the Register of Copyrights, Library of 
Congress, Washington, D. C. Remember that copyright 
is nothing more than a registry of your claim to author- 
ship or ownership. As to foreign copyright, consult 
an expert, or your lawyer. 

As a rule it is unwise to send more than one story at 
a time to a magazine. Nor is it ever wise to bombard 
an editor with manuscript the moment he accepts one 
of your offerings. 


Never offer the same story to more than one magazine 
at the same time. It is not fair to ask an editor to pass 
on a manuscript only to learn that it has been accepted 

Never send the same story to a second magazine be- 
fore you have heard from the first periodical to which 
it has been submitted. If you do not get an answer in 
three weeks, it may be wise to drop a line courteously 
asking for a decision, but you had better wait the month 
out. Editors sometimes fall ill, take a holiday, or are 
otherwise delayed. No reputable magazine wilfully neg- 
lects manuscript. It may be that your story is being 
considered by several advisers, and impatience upon your 
part will never help your cause. 

Never put a string to your offer of a manuscript by 
telling the editor that you will accept his offer if it is 
good enough. If he is human, such a request will irri- 
tate him and may cause him to reject the story forth* 

Don't let the printed rejection slip humiliate you. 
Really great writers get them, constantly. It would take 
too much time and money for an editorial staff to write 
personal letters to all who offer unsolicited manuscript. 

Never write back sarcastic letters when your offerings 
are rejected. You may need that editor some day. Al- 
though personal pique seldom actuates him, he may be 
frail enough to be annoyed when his well-meant efforts 
are assailed. 

Don't load up your envelope with printed notices of 
your privately-published book, your lecture, or any sort 


of personal advertisement. They will all go to the waste- 
basket unread. The editor is concerned only with your 
story. If that is good, he may accept it in spite of your 
previous literary offenses. There is some excuse for a 
writer's saying in his letter, " This month's Scribner's 
contains a story of mine, and I send you another in the 
same vein." The editor likes to know that, for he may 
prefer an accepted author, under certain conditions, and 
may have overlooked your story in the other magazine, 
though usually he glances over " all the periodicals " — 
and always reads those in his own line. 

Don't send a story to a magazine unless you are sure 
you understand the spirit of that particular periodical. 1 
All magazines are not alike. Study several copies, re- 
cent copies, of the magazine to see if you have hit its 
general tone and favorite length. / cannot sufficiently 
emphasise this point. Remember that stories too sim- 
ilar to those lately published are as likely to prove un- 
available as those which are too different in general tone. 
Err rather upon the side of brevity than of length. 

Don't be discouraged if your story comes back. Re- 
read it, and if you are quite sure it is the best you can 
do, send it out again, using your best judgment as to 
the magazine to which it seems suited. If it comes back 
again, lay it aside for another reading when it will be 
fresh again. If you see anything wrong then, bravely 
rectify it and send it out again. Many a story has been 

1 The Writer's Monthly, Springfield, Mass., contains a very full 
department listing the needs of publishers. 



sold on its tenth, yes, its twentieth trip. But it is a 
waste of postage and patience and editorial brain to keep 
on sending inferior material to magazines which are 
plainly too critical to accept loosely constructed work. 

Timeliness is an important element. Every magazine 
is flooded with Christmas material sent during Novem- 
ber. Send all " timely," " seasonable," or " occasional " 
material from four to six months ahead of the time it is 
expected to appear. This is important. 

Keep a careful record of where, when, and how you 
send and receive back your short-stories. Here is oiiq 
simple form for a manuscript book or card index: 


Sent to 


Returned from 

Date 1 Sold to 



• Some writers number their manuscripts, but that is 
more necessary when the writer deals in such small 
items as jokes, and — as one author puts it — "worse." 



The land is full of young writers of promise, whose perform- 
ance is not yet. They have graduated at high schools and 
seminaries, and sometimes at colleges for either sex ; they have 
ability — lots of it, but it is ability in the raw, in the rough. 
Their minds are immature, their experience inadequate to the 
accurate and satisfactory portrayal of life and society and human 
nature. One would not be harsh with them, for they may grow 
to full stature some day and do fine things. As it is, they fre- 
quently get into print (in books), and sometimes make a suc- 
cess, for there are many like them among the readers of books. 
But the doors of magazines must remain mildly but firmly closed 
against them till they have tarried a sufficient time at Jericho, 
and learned to understand, to observe, and to depict realities, 
instead of drawing on their own disordered fancies. — Frederic 
M Bird, Magazine Fiction, Lippincott's, Nov., 1894. 

The Editor had just finished a pile of short-story man- 
uscripts, when his friend the Young Author dropped in. 

"Ah, glad you came!" he said. "No, I'm not too 
busy — I'm about through for to-day, and rather fagged 
out. A man can't trust his judgment when he's tired or 
cross. See that first pile of stuff? Half of it I've 
marked ' re-read ' because I'm uncertain whether it's 
good or not. To-morrow I'll know in short order. An 



editor must make allowances for his moods. Some days 
he can't laugh, and on others he can't cry." 

" And what's in that second pile ? " 

" ' Not available ' stories." 

" I thought most of the manuscripts were weeded out 
for you by your assistant readers." 

" So they are, usually ; but every now and then I want 
to read everything that comes in myself, and then have 
a talk with my staff so as to be sure that we're looking 
at things from pretty nearly the same view-point." 

" You get a pile every day, I suppose." 

" Oh, it varies ; about two thousand a month, if you 
count manuscripts of all kinds — articles, stories, verses, 
epigrams and jokes." 

"And every one is read?" 

" Certainly ! But not necessarily all through. Some- 
times a glance is enough to show that it is ' impossible.' 
But everything which on brief examination looks at all 
hopeful is read, sometimes by five different persons, 
before it is sent back, or accepted. In this respect all 
good magazines are alike ; every manuscript gets a square 

" Now that ' not available " lot, do you know definitely 
why you reject each one?" 

" Yes ; at least, I could formulate a reason if I tried ; 
but mostly I don't try. I sort of know when they won't 
do. Let's look these over for a moment, in confidence, 
and I'll explain. Here's a story — a good thing too — 
of nine thousand words. Entirely too long. We rarely 
use a short-story of more than fiv thousand. And look 


at this one — facts all mixed up, details plainly inaccu- 
rate, and yet a good yarn at bottom. That's the trouble 
with lots of writers — they will not take the trouble to 
do things well. Then see here : you can't say of this 
story that it's too slender. The fault is all the other 
way — it has incident enough to stock a novelette. The 
next is out of date, both in subject-matter and in treat- 
ment. It's too late a day for the troubles of a horse- 
car driver to seem real to our readers. This next story 
is realism — and nothing more. It isn't a short-story at 
all, but merely a photograph, very minute and very clear, 
of an absolutely uninteresting group of people. They 
talk exactly as ordinary people would talk. It's too ob- 
viously true to commonplace life. Here's another. The 
first ten lines, and a look at the rest, show that the writer 
has modeled his style after the shilling shocker. And I 
can't use this other one either, though it's really a good 

"How's that?" 

" Well, a year ago the fellow sold another magazine a 
story he had deliberately cribbed from an old copy of 
The Atlantic. Editors tell each other such things, you 
see. This next story I couldn't get interested in, though 
it's smoothly written and shows no little experience in 
handling. It's simply dull. I'm sorry, too, for the 
writer generally sends us first-rate stuff. He must have 
a careful letter explaining." 

" That seems fair." 

" Now look at this dainty little sketch. I like that, 
but I can't accept it. Within two months we've bought 


more of that kind than can be used in as many years, 
Sorry, but back it goes." 

" This looks like a Memorial Day story." 

" It is; and it came in just four months too late. Last 
November I was down on my knees for something of 
this kind. Then in December two good ones came in — 
one we're using this year, and the other will keep till 
next May. This one isn't quite big and strong enough 
to hold over for two years, so I'll have to let it go. You 
see how chance runs? Last November it would have 
been accepted, almost surely." 

"Tough luck!" 

" Yes, but there's no help for it when they come in 
too late. Now, there's another story that's brilliantly 
written — but it's nasty. Pity ! Here's one that's funny, 
very funny — in spots. The rest of it is too strained 
to be redeemed by the genuinely humorous parts. Sus- 
tained humor is so rare that we jump at it when it 
comes our way." 

"Well, what's the matter with this one?" 

" Needlessly horrible. Good plot, climactic interest, 
very well written, but simply reeking with gore; while 
here's a would-be tragedy that is so pink-papery that it 
is ridiculous. The villain fairly lisps while he daintily 
slaps at the heroine ! " 

" Here's a bright girl ; I've seen several of her things 
in good magazines lately. What is her story like ? " 

" Evidently a juvenile effort she's trying to float on 
the wave of her present popularity. She'd better burn it. 
If it gets into print it will do her more harm than good. 


Not that it's so bad — just childish, you know. By the 
way, yesterday I laid aside another of her stories which 
we're going to ask her to change. It can be used if she 
cuts out three hundred words from the first half. It's 
probably not conscious padding, but it simply clogs the 
action without helping the atmosphere. She'll do it, too, 
and thank me. It's a delight to deal with an author who 
believes that an editor is genuinely interested in his 

" What would you say, now, is the chief defect of 
stories as they run ? " 

" They're merely good, that's the trouble. They lack 
distinction. So many people can write fair English now- 
adays, and possess some ingenuity in plot construction, 
that it is easy to write a fairly good short-story. But no 
magazine can afford to be merely ' fairly good/ so that 
kind of stuff won't sell. It must be unusual in one qual- 
ity at least, if not in all. Most writers are commonplace 
imitators. See that file of Harper's there ? Let me have 
the January number — 1908. See here : it's by Edwin 
S. Martin: 

" ' It is a great advantage to a writer to have sense, but he can 
get along with a moderate supply of it if he is a good enough 
writer. It is an advantage to him to have learning, provided 
he has it under good control and doesn't let it run away with him 
or dam him up. But the thing he must have is ideas. It is 
hard sledding for a writer to get along without ideas. Some- 
how, if he is going to be a writer, he must have bubbles in his 
mind. He can borrow a great many thoughts if he knows where 
to find them. What is learning but the assimilation of other 
men's ideas! But while some persons are writers because they 
are possessed with idea? that demand to be expounded, a good 


many others attain more or less painfully to the possession of 
ideas because they are called to be writers and are peremptorily 
constrained to have something to impart. It isn't quite enough 
to have language, though if you know enough words and attain 
to a truly skilful use of them, you can make them go a good 
ways. You must have some kind of an idea to string them 
on if you are going to make a tolerable literary job. Sit down 
with pen, paper, ink, and a dictionary — if you need one. Then 
we all know what happens. You have got to think. There is 
no way out of it. Thinking is to the natural man a severe and 
repugnant exercise, but the natural man is not a writer. Before 
anybody becomes a writer he must subjugate nature to the 
extent of partially overcoming his distaste for consecutive 
thought.' " 

" I see. The average short-story is short on ideas." 

" Exactly." 

" But, apart from that, you must have some definite 
principle in mind by which you judge fiction. You 
surely don't sit here and turn down stories simply on ac- 
count of technical defects." 

" That depends on what you mean by the term. 
Technical defects are not theoretical, but the big faults 
of structure which rob a story of its grip. Technique 
has grown up out of the usage of good yarn-spinners, 
and not contrariwise. Most of the stories we accept are 
imperfect, but not glaringly so. If they throb with hu- 
man interest, do not drag, strike a fresh note, vibrate 
some emotion, and are generally well-done, the minor 
technical defects are likely to be overlooked, or we may 
ask the author to correct them. In a word, the story 
counts more than the manner, though we want both." 

" But you haven't answered my question." 


"As to a general underlying principle? I'm afraid 
I couldn't formulate one. An editor tries to keep his 
tastes sane and fresh and manly, and then select the 
stories he feels his readers will like. Professor Brander 
Matthews once said a good thing about writers, and it 
fits the editor's case too, I suppose. In his essay ' On 
Pleasing the Taste of the Public,' in Aspects of Fiction, 
he suggests that the only way is, not to attempt a sly 
survey of the field and then ' give the dear public what 
it wants/ but to give the public the best you have and 
depend upon there being enough of similar mind to ap- 
preciate what you offer." 

" Of course I see what he means, but an editor can't 
do just as he pleases, can he? " 

" Not altogether ; he is limited in his choice not only 
by his own magazine, but by the fact that he is buying 
magazine material. The broadest magazine must be 
narrow as compared with a book, for its clientele is 
more or less fixed. A book the public may take or let 
alone, but the management must consistently give the 
man who subscribes for a magazine what he has a right 
to expect." 

" If a chap could run an endowed magazine, with no 
eye to the box-office ! " 

" Y-e-s, he might print things ' regardless/ I suppose, 
but I doubt if the humanizing element of * a public ' is 
not the very thing needful to keep the editor from be- 
coming a mere visionary. Anyhow, as some one has 
said, ' the editor is merely a middleman who caters to the 
wants of his customers ' — and isn't always certain as to 


what they want. If he guesses right more than sixty 
per cent, of the time he is happy." 

" All this sounds pretty hopeless for a young fellow 
like me. Now look at that quotation from Dr. Bird 
you have pasted up there on your desk : 

" ' In one case only, or in one set of cases, the most stringent 
rules may be relaxed — not broken. It is a case which editors 
are always hoping for, but which seldom occurs to gladden 
them. Do something that nobody has done before; let in light 
on a dark place ; make a dull theme attractive, raise the dead 
to life, invest a trivial topic with dignity, cause the desert to 
rejoice and blossom, turn old things into new: — before such a 
key doors open, and hearts, too. What was expected of monkeys 
and bears and tigers? Yet there is the Jungle Book. Huguenot 
wars were counted stale and threadbare, but A Gentleman of 
France has revived them. The world is still conservative, not 
ready to welcome its Kiplings and Weymans till they show the 
stuff that is in them ; but that once done, theirs is the right of 
way everywhere. It was the misfortune or the fault of the 
magazines if they did not " discover " and first exploit these 
two; but many a talent has risen from obscurity to fame through 
the monthlies, and in their pages the stars of the future may 
now be faintly twinkling and preparing to mount aloft.' " 

" Yes, it does sound hopeless, until you consider that 
this is only one magazine, that there are a thousand other 
fiction markets not quite as exacting in their require- 
ments, and that a writer may learn to write — if it's in 

" Of course, that's the point — if it's in him. But 
how is he to know ? " 

" Set to work and dig — just the way a woman goes 
about finding out if she is a real singer, or a man a mer- 
chant genius. They judge from natural tendencies and 


then try it. The average writer doesn't succeed any 
earlier than the average lawyer — and, frankly, not so 
easily, and rarely so largely, if dollars measure success. 
For ten years Conan Doyle sent manuscripts around, 
and in no one year did he earn so much as two hundred 
and fifty dollars. Suddenly his work took hold, and — 
well, you know how it is now: we all want him. The 
difference was not in the editors, it was in him. He 
had served his apprenticeship and had arrived. You 
see, all these rejected manuscripts are not failures, by a 
long shot. A lot of them will be sold elsewhere. They 
simply do not fit in with our plans, or are untimely, or 
in some other way are unsuitable. Many a good story 
gets away from us because I haven't sense enough to see 
its value until some other fellow has published it. Then 
I'll turn around and discover something that has slipped 
through his fingers. Odd, isn't it ? " 

" But how about the rest of these ? " 

" Well, that one is a good story, but what sense is 
there in writing a yarn just to say bitter things about a 
form of religion with which you are not in sympathy? 
Singularly enough, the very next story is a covert de- 
fense of the cult the other woman attacks ! Here's a 
story that gives away its mystery before it is half through. 
There's one that is so full of technical musical terms that 
it would require a lexicon to read it. And so on down 
the list. Many could be remedied if some one could 
just take the writer aside and explain. But you see how 
hopeless a job that would be for an editor to take up! 
As for the rest — they are simply without merit. Their 


authors never will learn how to write, for they show 
not the faintest glimmerings of ability. What a pity a 
fellow can't tell them so frankly ! " 

"And this last little pile?" 

" Ah, they are fine ! Only three ; and it took our entire 
staff four days to rind them out and decide upon them. 
But they make up for all the drudgery put on the rest." 

And the Young Author went away thinking. 



Some day, when nobody is about, line yourself up in a cor- 
ner and find out just what you are capable of doing in this 
literary game. Point your finger sternly and make yourself sur- 
render your knowledge. Can you depict sentiment, romance, 
adventure? Have you ever lived or loved? Do you study 
technical advice, or do you just scan it? Do you practise 
faithfully? Are you a steady current or an intermittent jump- 
spark? What can you do? What will you do? What can't 
you do? After you're robbed of your conceit, and duly ashamed, 
you'll be able to look your friend Ability in the face without 
flinching. After that — Well, anyhow, corner yourself and get 
a view of the situation. — The Editor, October, 1908. 

" It's too hard," you say, " and you're tired and sick of it 
all." Why, man, you're a shirker and a coward. Here is a 
woman who is blind, patiently smiling and writing her way 
to success. Here's a man whose health gave out and who 
turned to literature as a last resort, finding it not only a suc- 
cessful profession, but a solace for his affliction. Here's a man 
in prison, writing with faith untouched. Here's a woman all 
heart and soul, with a body God could hardly have meant for 
contact with life: look at her face, read her work, and think 
of yourself — quite strong, quite capable, quite clever enough to 
reach the heights. It is hard, but that's what makes it worth 
while. Would it suffice if we all could write — the butcher's 
boy and the street urchin and you and me? It's the task that 
makes the reward. If you're weary of it all, your perspective 
of life is distorted : you shirk and you fear. The prize is worth 
the struggle — and, remember, the struggle must come first. — 






The figures used in this list are for reference, and cor- 
respond to the figures in parentheses in Appendices B 
and C. There has been no attempt to make this list ex- 
haustive, nor to include collections which are not pub- 
lished in America. Volumes made up exclusively of 
tales and sketches not closely akin to the short-story 
type, have been excluded. It has not seemed necessary 
to list the collected short-stories of authors (such as Poe, 
Dickens and Balzac) whose works commonly appear in 
complete sets. Since each author is represented by but 
one volume, the writer of this treatise does not wish to 
imply that the volume selected necessarily contains the 
author's most important story or stories. Other repre- 
sentative short-story writers are listed in Appendices 
B and C. 

I. Miscellaneous Collections 

{Appendix F contains a list of American publishers 
with their addresses, and the abbreviations used through- 
out this volume.) 



1. American Short Stories; edited, with introductory 
essay, by Charles S. Baldwin; i vol. Longmans. 

2. Book of the Short Story, The; edited, with intro- 
ductory essay, notes and full epochal lists of tales and 
short-stories, by Alexander Jessup and Henry Seidel 
Canby; I vol. Appleton. 

3. Chap Book Stories; 2 vols. Duffield. 

4. Digit of the Moon, A (East Indian tales and sto- 
ries) ; 1 vol. Putnam. 

5. Great Short Stories; edited, with biographical notes, 
by William Patten ; 3 vols. Collier. 

6. Harper's Detective Stories; containing forty-nine 
stories, by A. Conan Doyle, Maurice Leblanc, Arthur 
Morrison and Samuel M. Gardenhire; 6 vols. Harper. 

7. Harper's Novelettes (short-stories by contemporary 
authors) ; edited, with brief introductions, by W. D. 
Howells and H. M. Alden ; 7 vols. Harper. 

8. Library of the World's Best Mystery and Detective 
Stories; edited, with introduction, by Julian Hawthorne ; 
6 vols. Review. 

9. Little Classics; edited, with introduction, by Rossi- 
ter Johnson; 18 vols, (several of which are verse and 
sketches ) . Houghton. 

10. Little French Masterpieces; edited, with introduc- 
tions by various critics, by Alexander Jessup; 6 vols. 
(Flaubert, Merimee, Gautier, Balzac, Daudet, Maupas- 
sant) . Putnam. 

11. Little Masterpieces of Fiction; edited by Hamilton 
W. Mabie (who writes the introduction) and Lionel 
Strachey ; 8 vols. Doubleday. 


12. Little Masterpieces of American Wit and Humor; 
edited by Thomas L. Masson; 6 vols, (including many 
sketches and anecdotes). McClure. 

13. Love Tales; 5 vols. Jacobs. 

14. Modern Ghosts; 1 vol. Harper. 

15. Short Story Classics, American; edited, with in- 
troduction and biographical notes, by William Patten ; 5 
vols. Collier. 

16. Short Story Classics, Foreign; edited, with bio- 
graphical notes, by William Patten; 5 vols. Collier. 

17. Short-Story, The; edited, with introduction and 
notes, by Brander Matthews; 1 vol. American. 

18. Specimens of the Short Story; edited, with intro- 
duction and notes, by George Henry Nettleton; 1 vol. 

19. Stories by American Authors; 10 vols. Scribner. 1 

20. Stories by English Authors; 10 vols. Scribner. 2 

21. Stories by Foreign Authors; 10 vols. Scribner. 

22. Stories from McClure 's; 5 vols. McClure. 

23. Stories from Scribner' s; 6 vols. Scribner. 

24. Stories New and Old, American and English; 
edited, with introduction and notes, by Hamilton W. 
Mabie; 1 vol. Macmillan. 

25. Tales from Blackwood; 6 vols. Doubleday. 

26. Tales from McC lure's; 5 vols. McClure. 

27. Tales from Many Sources; 1 vol. Dodd. 

1 Cheaper edition issued by Success Co., New York, as Library 
of American Fiction. 

2 Cheaper edition \%sued by Success Co., New York, as Library 
of English Fiction, 


28. World's Greatest Short-Stories, The; edited, with 
introduction and notes, by Sherwin Cody; 1 vol. Mc- 

2. Volumes of Stories by One Author 

29. Aldrich, Thomas Bailey; Marjorie Daw and Other 
People. Houghton. 

30. Barr, Robert; Revenge. Stokes. 

31. Barrie, J. M. ; A Window in Thrums. Scribner. 

32. Bell, J. J.; Wee Macgregor. Harper. 

33. Benson, E. F. ; The Babe, B. A. Putnam. 

34. Bierce, Ambrose ; In the Midst of Life. Putnam. 

35. Bjornson, Bjornstjerne; The Fisher Maiden, and 
Later Stories. Houghton. 

36. Black, William; The Magic Ink. Harper. 

37. Bourget, Paul; Monica. Scribner. 

38. Brown, Alice; Tiverton Tales. Houghton. 

39. Castle, Agnes and Egerton; Flower 0' the. Or- 
ange. Macmillan. 

40. Chambers, Robert W. ; The King in Yellow. 

41. Chesterton, Gilbert K. ; The Club of Queer Trades. 

42. Collins, Wilkie; After Dark. Harper. 

43. Coppee, Frangois; Ten Tales. Harper. 

44. Crockett, S. R. ; The Stickit Minister. 

45. Davis, Richard Harding; Van Bibber, and Others. 

46. Deland, Margaret; Old Chester Tales. Harper. 


47. Field, Eugene; A Little Book of Profitable Tales. 

48. Fox, John, Jr. ; Hell fer Sartain. Harper. 

49. Fraser, W. A.; Thirteen Men. Appleton. 

50. Freeman, Mary Wilkins; A Humble Romance. 

51. Garland, Hamlin; Main Traveled Roads. Mac- 

52. Gibbon, Perceval ; Vrouw Grobelaar and Her Lead- 
ing Class., McClure. 

53. " Gorky, Maxim " ; Twenty-Six and One. J. F. 
Taylor & Co. 

54. Hale, Edward Everett ; The Man Without a Coun- 
try and Other Stories. Little. 

55. Halevy, Ludovic; Parisian Points of View. 

56. Hardy, Thomas ; Life's Little Ironies. Harper. 

57. Harris, Joel Chandler; Uncle Remus and His 
Friends. Houghton. 

58. Harte, Bret; The Luck of Roaring Camp. 

59. " Henry, O." ; Heart of the West. McClure. 

60. Hewlett, Maurice ; Little Novels of Italy. Mac-^ 

61. Hichens, Robert; The Black Spaniel. Stokes. 

62. Hoffman, E. T. W. ; Weird Tales. Scribner. 

63. " Hope, Anthony " ; Dolly Dialogues. Harper. 

64. Hopper, James; Caybigan. McClure. 

65. Howells, William Dean; A Pair of Patient Lov- 
ers. Harper. 


66. Jacobs, W. W. ; The Lady of the Barge. Dodd. 

67. James, Henry, Jr. ; The Wheel of Time. Harper. 

68. Jerome, Jerome K. ; Sketches in Lavender. Holt 

69. Kelly, Myra; Wards of Liberty. McClure. 

70. Lewis, Alfred Henry; Wolfville. Stokes. 

71. Lincoln, Joseph C. ; The Old Home House. 

J2. London, Jack; The Love of Life. Macmillan. 

73. Loomis, Charles Battell; Cheerful Americans. 

74. MacGrath, Harold; Enchantment. Bobbs. 

75. " Maclaren, Ian " ; Beside the Bonnie Briar Bush. 

76. Matthews, Brander; The Story of a Story, etc. 

yy. Maupassant, Guy de; The Odd Number. Harper. 

78. Meredith, George ; Short Stories. Scribner. 

79. Moore, George ; The Untitled Field. Lippincott. 

80. Norris, Frank; A Deal in Wheat. Doubleday. 

81. O'Higgins, Harvey J.; The Smoke Eaters. Cen- 

82. Osbourne, Lloyd; The Motormaniacs. Bobbs. 

83. " Ouida " ; A Dog of Flanders, etc. Lippincott. 

84. Page, Thomas Nelson ; In Ole Virginia. Scribner. 

85. Phelps, Elizabeth Stuart; Men, Women and 
Ghosts. Houghton. 

86. Poe, Edgar Allan; Monsieur Dupin (collected de- 
tective stories). McClure. 

87. Post, Melville Davison ; The Strange Schemes of 
Randolph Mason. Putnam. 

88. Poushkin, A. S. ; Prose Tales. Macmillan. 


89. Reade, Charles; Good Stories. Harper. 

90. Sienkiewicz, Henryk; Hania. Little. 

95. Smith, F. Hopkinson; The Wood Fire in No. 3. 

92. Stockton, Frank R. ; The Lady or the Tiger. 

93. Stuart, Ruth McEnery; The Second Wooing of 
Salina Sue. Harper. 

94. " Thanet, Octave " ; Stories of a Western Town. 

95. Turgenieff, Ivan; The Jew, and Other Stories. 

96. " Twain, Mark " ; The $30,000 Bequest. Harper. 

97. White, Stewart Edward; The Biased Trail. Mc- 

98. White, William Allen ; In Our Town. McClure. 

99. Wig-gin, Kate Douglas ; The Village Watch Tower, 

100. Zangwill, I. ; The Celibates' Club. Macmillan. 

Note: See additional reading and reference lists — made in 
1918— in "Appendix H," p. 432. 



This is not an attempt to select " one hundred best 
short-stories," for the opinions of competent critics would 
be sure to differ as to the exclusion or inclusion of many 
writers and stories. Accessibility to the general reader 
has governed some selections; other stories chosen were 
thought to be more representative of their authors than 
better-known examples ; while most are widely recognized 
as typical masterpieces. The fact that certain excellent 
magazines are not referred to in this list is accounted 
for by the fact that many short-stories which originally 
appeared in their pages were later collected in the sets 
listed in Appendix A. The numerals in parentheses 
refer in every case to the collections listed in Appendix 
A — which, with Appendix C, will also largely supple- 
ment this list. The names of publishers not in italics, 
following story titles, indicate that the stories are pub- 
lished in book form under the same titles Appendix E 
gives the full styles and addresses of publishers whose 
names are abbreviated elsewhere in this volume. 

i. Abbott, Eleanor Hallowell; "The Sick-a-Bed Lady." 
Collier's, Oct., 1905. 

2. Ade, George; " To Make a Hoosier Holiday." (15} 



3. Aldrich, Thomas Bailey ; " Marjorie Daw." Hough- 

ton. . 

4. Andrews, Mary R. Shipman ; " A Good Samaritan." 


5. Anstey, R; "The Black Poodle." (20) 

6. Atherton, Gertrude ; " The Bell in the Fog." Har- 


7. Bacon, Josephine Daskam ; " Edgar, the Choir-Boy 

Uncelestial." McClure's, Jan., 1902. 

8. Balzac, Honore de ; " The Unknown Masterpiece." 


9. Bangs, John Kendrick ; " The Utilitarian Mr. Car- 

raway." From " The Booming of Acre Hill" 

10. Barbour, Ralph Henry ; " The Dub." Lippincott's, 

Nov., 1905. 

11. Barrie, James M.; "The Courting of T'Nowhead's 

Bell." (11) 

12. Besant, Sir Walter ; " In Deacon's Orders." 


13. Bourget, Paul; "Another Gambler." (21) 

14. Brainerd, Eleanor Hoyt; "Concerning Belinda." 


15. "Buchanan, Captain Lloyd"; "The Team." Lip- 

pincott's, Nov., 1906. 

16. Bunner, H. C; "Love in Old Cloathes." (19) 

17. Burnett, Frances Hodgson; " Little Saint Elizabeth.' 5 

From "Sara Crewe." Scribner. 

18. Butler, Ellis Parker; "Pigs is Pigs." McClure. 


19. Caryl, Guy Wetmore; " Zut." From "Zut, and 

Other Parisians." Houghton. 

20. Gastle, Egerton; "The Baron's Quarry." (8) 

21. Conrad, Joseph; "The Brute." McClnre's, Nov., 


22. Cooke, Grace MacGowan ; " Their First Formal 

Call." Harper. 

23. " Craddock, Charles Egbert"; "The Mystery of 

Witch-Face Mountain." Houghton. 

24. Crawford, F. Marion; "The Upper Berth." (15) 

25. Cutting, Mary Stewart; "The Suburban Whirl." 


26. Daudet, Alphonse ; " The Goat of Monsieur Se- 

guin." (10) 
2J. Davis, Richard Harding ; " Van Bibber's Man-Serv- 
ant. (45) 

28. Deland, Margaret; "An Encore." (7) 

29. Dickens, Charles ; " A Christmas Carol." Works. 

30. Ford, Paul Leicester ; " Wanted : A Match-Maker." 

Harper's, Sept., 1900. 

31. Forman, Justus Miles; "The Dream." Harper's, 

Oct., 1908. 
2,2. France, Anatole ; " The Juggler of Notre Dame." 


33. Frederic, Harold ; " Brother Sebastian's Friendship." 


34. Futrelle, Jacques ; " The Gray Ghost." Everybody's, 

Aug., 1903. 

35. Garland, Hamlin; "Up the Coulee." (51) 

36. Gautier, Theophile; "The Dead Leman." (10) 


2,7. Harben, Will N. ; " The Whipping of Uncle Henry." 
From "Northern Georgia Sketches!' Harper. 

38. Hardy, Thomas; "On the Western Circuit." (56) 

39. Harte, Bret; "The Outcasts of Poker Flat/' (11) 

40. Hawthorne, Nathaniel; "Ethan Brand." (24) 

41. Henry, O." ; " Cupid a la Carte." (59) 

42. Hewlett, Maurice ; " Madonna of the Peach-Tree." 


43. Heyse, Paul; "Andrea Delfm." (8) 

44. Hibbard, George ; " The Governor." Scribner. 

45. Holloway, Edward Stratton; "The Master." 

Reader, Nov., 1905. 

46. " Hope, Anthony " ; " The Sin of the Bishop of 

Modenstein." From " The Heart of the Princess 
Osra" Stokes. 

47. Hopper, James ; " Caybigan." McClure. 

48. Hornung, E. W. ; " A Thief in the Night." Scrib- 


49. Howells, W. D. ; " Editha." (7) 

50. Irving, Washington ; " Rip Van Winkle." (3) 

51. James, Henry; " Owen Wingrave." (67) 

52. Jewett, Sarah Orne; " Marsh Rosemary." Atlantic, 


53. Johnson, Owen; "The Hero of an Hour." Satur- 

day Evening Post, Aug. 29, 1908. 

54. Jokai, Maurice; " In Love With the Czarina."^ (21) 

55. Kipling, Rudyard; " The Man Who Was." (17) 

56. Knapp, George ; " Blood o J Innocence." Lippin- 

cotfs, Nov., 1907. 


57. Lewis, Will ; " Mike Grady's Safety." Everybody's, 

Oct., 1905. 

58. Linn, J. W.; "The Girl at Duke's." McClure's, 

Aug., 1903. 

59. Long, John Luther; " The Siren." Century, July, 


60. " Maartens, Maarten ; " " The Little Christian." 

Lip pine ott's, March, 1900. 

61. McCutcheon, George Barr; " The Day of the Dog." 


62. MacGowan, Alice; " A Doll." (7) 

63. MacGrath, Harold; " The Blind Madonna." (74) 

64. " Maclaren, Ian ; " "A Doctor of the Old School." 


65. Maeterlinck, Maurice; "The Massacre of the Inno- 

cents." (21) 

66. Martin, Helen; "The Betrothal of Elypholate 

Yingst." Cosmopolitan, June, 1903. 

67. Maupassant, Guy de; "Vain Beauty." (10) 

68. Merimee, Prosper ; " The Venus of Ille." (6) 

69. Mitchell, S. Weir; " A Draft on the Bank of Spain." 

From " Hepzibah Guinness." Century. 

70. Morris, Gouverneur ; " Simon L'Ouvrier." Col- 

Iter's, Aug. 25, 1906. 

71. Norris, Frank; "The Passing of Cock-eye Black- 

lock." Century, July, 1902. 

72. "Ouida" (Mile. Louise de la Ramee) ; "A Leaf in 

the Storm." (20) 

73. Page, Thomas Nelson ; " Marse Chan." ( 19) 



74. Phelps, Elizabeth Stuart ; " His Soul to Keep." 

Harper's, Sept., 1908. 

75. Phillips, Henry Wallace ; " Red Saunders at Big 

Bend." McClure's, Jan., 1904. 
J6. Poe, Edgar Allan; "The Pit and the Pendulum." 


77. Poushkin, Alexander; "The Shot." (21) 

78. Reade, Charles; "The Box Tunnel." (18) 

79. Singmaster, Elsie; "The County Seat." Atlantic, 

May, 1908. 

80. Scott, John Reed; "The First Hurdle." Lippin- 

cott's, Nov., 1907. 

81. Spearman, Frank H. ; "A Million-Dollar Freight 

Train." (22) 

82. Stevenson, Robert Louis; " Markheim." (3) 

83. Stockton, Frank R. ; " The Lady or the Tiger." 


84. Stuart, Ruth McEnery ; " A Note of Scarlet." Cen- 

tury, May and June, 1899. 

85. Sudermann, Hermann ; " The New- Year's Eve Con- 

fession." (16) 

86. Tarkington, Booth ; " Monsieur Beaucaire." Mc- 


87. Taylor, Bayard; "Who Was She?" (19) 

88. Taylor, Mary Imlay ; " The Window That Monsieur 

Forgot." Booklovers, Jan., 1904. 

89. Tolstoi, Lyof; "An Old Acquaintance." (21) 

90. Turganev, Ivan; " Mumu." (21) 

91. "Twain, Mark"; "The £1,000,000 Bank Note." 

From " The American Claimant/' Harper. 


92. Van Vorst, Marie ; " Bulstrode in Loco Parentis." 

Scribner's, Nov., 1906. 

93. Watson, H. B. Marriott; "A Delicate Story." Ains- 

lee's, June, 1907. 

94. Weyman, Stanley J.; "A Perilous Amour." (20) 

95. Wharton, Edith ; " The Duchess at Prayer." From 

" Crucial Instances!' Scribner. 

96. White, Stewart Edward ; " Life of the Winds of 

Heaven." McClure's, Aug., 1902. 

97. White, William Allen ; " The King of Boyville." 


98. Wiggin, Kate Douglas ; " The Bird's Christmas 

Carol." Houghton. 

99. Wister, Owen; "The Game and the Nation." (24) 

100. Zola, Emile ; u The Death of Olivier Becaille." 



The numbers in parentheses refer to the collections of 
short-stories listed in Appendix A. 

i. Markheim, by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850- 
1894) ; about 7,000 words; written in 1884. A psycho- 
logical character study of intense emotional force (16). 

Markheim enters the shop of a dealer in antiques, os- 
tensibly to buy a Christmas present for a lady. He stabs 
the old dealer with a long skewer-like dagger, and then 
is stricken with terror as " the whole room was filled with 
noiseless bustle . . . the tall shadows nodding, the 
gross blots of darkness swelling and dwindling as with 
respiration, the faces of the portraits and the china gods 
changing and wavering like images in water." The 
striking of clocks, the reflections of mirrors, the sound 
of his own steps, a score of other matters, all stagger 
him with fright. " On every side he was haunted and 
begirt with presences." At length he brings himself 
to go upstairs, still beset by fearful fancies. Suddenly 
a step is heard upon the stair, a face peers in the door- 
way. A Visitant enters and shows Markheim that He 
knows all. He offers the murderer immunity in ex- 
change for a service, but Markheim fears such a bargain 



might cost him his soul. He seeks to disclose all his 
motives, to uncover his very heart to the Tempter — 
whose face suddenly takes on an almost angelic smile as 
Markheim decides to place himself beyond the possibility 
of doing more evil. The Visitant fades away, and Mark- 
heim descends the stair, saying to the maidservant whom 
he confronts on the threshold, " You had better go for 
the police : I have killed your master." 

2. The Man Who Was, Rudyard Kipling (1865- ) ; 
about 6,500 words; written in 1889. A human-interest 
story, with strong emphasis laid upon the setting. The 
middle-distance characters stand out clearly (16). 

" Dirkovitch was ... an officer in a Cossack regi- 
ment, and corresponding for a Russian newspaper." In 
India he visited one troop after another and, by order 
of the Indian government, was civilly treated. Finally 
he became the guest of the White Hussars. During a 
gala dinner the mess was disturbed by the capture, out- 
side, of a wretch in native rags who had apparently been 
one of a band of desperate carbine thieves. The misera- 
ble fellow seemed a lunatic, but as he wept an Indian 
officer noticed that he cried like an Englishman. A Hus- 
sar heard him moaning, " My God ! " in English. They 
set him at table and gave him a stimulant. He reached 
out to a piece of silver plate on the table and touched a 
spring known only to the Hussars. Then in a child-like 
way he inspected the room and thickly asked for a cer- 
tain picture of a famous old regimental drum horse, 


which used to hang above the mantel. Had he once be- 
longed to their regiment? They tested him with their 
own peculiar toast to the Queen, and he responded as 
only an officer of the White Hussars could. Then Dirk- 
ovitch addressed him in Russian, and the man groveled. 
It gradually transpired that he was Lieutenant Austin 
Limmason, recorded as missing before Sebastopol thirty 
years prior. Captured by the Russians, he had insulted 
their Colonel, was knouted horribly, and after years of 
suffering, his mind now a blank, he had stumbled home 
to his regiment — he was not a carbine thief. The care 
of his comrades came too late, however, for three days 
later he died and was buried with an officer's honors. 
As Dirkovitch ended his visit he predicted a clash in the 
East between Britain and Russia. 

3. A Derelict, by Richard Harding Davis (1864- 
1917) ; about 11,500 words; from " Ranson's Folly," 
1902. A character study of crisis and denouement (14). 

James Keating, reporter, is sent by the Consolidated 
News to Santiago Harbor, wherein Cervera's fleet is 
bottled up. In Jamaica he runs across Charlie Channing, 
a newspaper man of rare genius, but of dissolute habits. 
The latter is unattached, and when his hoped-for assign- 
ment does not come, he is reduced to leading the life of 
a " beach-comber." The Syndicate reporter, Keating, of- 
fers Channing a job as stoker on the press boat — the 
only one there at the time. Channing at first refuses, 
then decides to accept. When he goes on board he finds 


Keating drunk, and he is still drunk the following day, 
when the Spanish fleet makes its dash to escape. Though 
sick with fever, Channing writes a great story — braced 
up with quinine — and orders the captain to steam to 
Port Antonio and get the story on the wire. Because 
he knows that Keating's future is imperilled by his de- 
bauch, and that he has a young wife, Channing gener- 
ously signs Keating's name to the dispatches. Then he 
succumbs to the fever, and when he gets on his feet 
again, six weeks later, the war is over. The Fruit Com- 
pany at Pert Antonio sends him north in one of its 
steamers. When he reaches New York he goes to a 
Bohemian restaurant, and there meets acquaintances who 
tell him that they are giving Keating a farewell banquet 
on this the eve of his departure for Paris, where he is 
to cover the Peace negotiations, and then become the 
Syndicate's Washington correspondent. Keating, he 
learns, owes his good fortune to the. remarkable news-beat 
he (Channing) sent in about the destruction of the Span- 
ish fleet. Channing looks in and sees Keating at the 
head of the long, crowded table, then he draws back. 
" You say ' good-by ' to him for me," he says. " And, 
Norris — tell him — tell him — that I asked you to say 
to him, ' It's all right,' that's all, just that, ' It's all right' 
He'll understand." As he moves away from the only 
place where he was sure of food and a welcome that 
night, the revelers break into the chorus, " For he's a 
jolly good fellow ! " But it was for Keating that the 
chorus rang out. 


4. The Piece of String, by Guy de Maupassant 
(1850-1893); about 2,500 words; written about 1885. 
A psychological story of compact plot and swift, pathetic 
denouement (15). 

Old Master Hauchecorne had just come from the coun- 
try to market when he saw a bit of string lying in the 
roadway. Being economical, he picked it up, and was 
about' to thrust it into his blouse when he realized that 
the Harness Maker, an old enemy, was looking at him. 
Ashamed of his niggardly act, he fumbled about, pre- 
tended to be looking for something else, concealed the 
string, and then painfully hobbled on. Later in the day 
peasants and citizens were summoned by drumbeat to the 
market square and told that a wallet containing five 
hundred francs had been lost. Presently Master 
Hauchecorne was sent for by the mayor, who told him 
that the Harness Maker had seen him pick up the wallet 
that morning on the road. Hauchecorne explained that 
it was merely a bit of string that he had picked up. The 
mayor was incredulous, the old man protested, was con- 
fronted by his accuser, and at last temporarily dis- 
charged. Everywhere he went he repeated his story and 
everywhere he was not believed. The next day the wal- 
let was found and restored. Hauchecorne again started 
out, triumphant, and buttonholed every one with his 
story, but people laughed and were still unconvinced. 
They thought he had tossed the wallet where it would be 
found. He was dumfounded at their incredulity. 
Thereupon he again made his rounds, still explaining. 


" ' Those are a liar's reasons/ people said behind his 

" He realized it ; he gnawed his nails, and exhausted 
himself in vain. 

" He grew perceptibly thinner. 

" Now the jokers asked him to tell the story of The 
Piece of String for their amusement, as a soldier who 
has seen service is asked to tell about his battles. His 
mind, attacked at its source, grew feebler. 

" Late in December he took to his bed. 

" In the first days of January he died and in the de- 
lirium of the death-agony he protested his innocence, 
repeating : 

"'A little piece of string — a little piece of string — 
see, here it is, m'sieu' mayor.' " 

5. The Great Stone Face, by Nathaniel Hawthorne 
( 1804-1864) ; about 8,500 words ; published in 1850. An 
allegorical, idealistic, didactic story (27). 

The Great Stone Face " was a work of Nature in her 
mood of majestic playfulness, formed on the perpendicu- 
lar side of a mountain by some immense rocks." " Its 
features were noble, and the expression was at once 
grand and sweet, as if it were the glow of a vast, warm 
heart, that embraced all mankind in its affections, and 
had room for more." There was a tradition in the popu- 
lous valley that there would some day appear a noble 
man with the very countenance of the Great Stone Face. 
As little Ernest sat with his mother he wished that such 
a man might indeed appear. The boy, who grew up 


under the benignant inspiration of the Face, one day 
heard it said that Mr. Gathergold had returned to his 
native place after having become very rich. With cere- 
mony the citizens acclaimed him as the man of prophecy, 
but as Ernest saw him give out merely coppers in charity, 
he knew that it was not he. Later another son of the 
valley returned full of glory — Old Blood-and-Thunder 
they called this military hero — and thought they had 
found in him the desired likeness. But in the " war- 
worn and weather-beaten countenance, full of energy, 
and expressive of an iron will," Ernest could see no 
similarity to " the gentle wisdom, the deep, broad, tender 
sympathies" of the Great Stone Face. Next a great 
statesman returned to his native valley, and because the 
people thought he looked like the Face, they called him 
Old Stony Phiz, but Ernest knew that he too was lack- 

At length a Poet visited the home of Ernest, now an 
old man. The two conversed profoundly, and in his vis- 
itor Ernest sought to find the expected Man, but the poet 
suddenly, " by an irresistible impulse, threw his arms 
aloft, and shouted — ' Behold ! Behold ! Ernest is him- 
self the likeness of the Great Stone Face ! ' 

" Then all the people looked, and saw that what the 
deep-sighted poet said was true. The prophecy was ful- 
filled. But Ernest, having finished what he had to say, 
took the poet's arm, and walked slowly homeward, still 
hoping that some wiser and better man than himself 
would by and by appear, bearing a resemblance to the 
Great Stone Face." 


6. "Next to Reading Matter," by " O. Henry" 
(Sidney Porter), (1865-1910) ; about 6,000 words; 
Everybody's Magazine, Dec., 1907. A humorous surprise 
story, ingenious in diction. 

The narrator is accosted on the street in New York 
by Judson Tate, the homeliest man imaginable. " His 
ugliness was less repellent than startling — arising from 
a sort of Lincolnian ruggedness and irregularity of 
feature that spellbound you with wonder and dismay." 
The two men struck up a hasty acquaintance and Tate 
tells his story. As a " gentleman adventurer " he had 
become a great man and the real power behind the presi- 
dent of a South American republic, all through his won- 
derful gift of speech. At an early age he had perceived 
that what he lacked in looks he must make up in elo- 
quence, and now no one could stand before him. Jud- 
son Tate had a friend, Fergus McMahan, who was as 
handsome as Tate was ugly, but " his conversation was 
about as edifying as listening to a leak dropping in a tin 
dish-pan at the head of the bed when you want to go to 
sleep." McMahan falls in love with " Senorita Anabela 
Zamora, the beautiful daughter of the Alcalde of Ara- 
tama," and arranges with Tate to visit her window by 
night and woo her — for McMahan — by his eloquence. 
The ruse succeeds, but when Tate finally sees her beauty 
he himself falls in love and warns his friend that he will 
marry the young lady. McMahan only laughs, but 
Tate's eloquent words actually charm her away from his 
handsome rival and she engages to marry the homely 


Suddenly, while calling upon the Senorita, the charmer 
loses his voice — and with it his hold upon his fiance. 
In six days she runs away with McMahan. But Tate,, 
after hurrying to the apothecary and getting some throat 
medicine, overtakes the eloping couple. The medicine 
has worked a miracle, his voice is as potent as ever, and 
the young lady once more succumbs to the eloquence of 
Judson Tate. They were married, and are now, he tells 
the narrator, living in Jersey City. He is now devoting 
himself to the sale of " Tate's Magic Chuchula Bron- 
chial Lozenges," which did so much for him — but the 
listener at this point tears himself away. 

After some reflection, the narrator decides that he has 
as much right to turn Tate's advertising dodge into a 
story as other fiction-writers have to puff a favorite 
make of automobile — and so he does. But he warns the 
reader that he " can't buy the chuchula plant in the drug 

7. The Monkey's Paw, by W. W. Jacobs (1863- ) ; 
about 3,500 words ; Harper's Magazine, 105 1634. A 
story of ingenious plot and surprising denouement, deal- 
ing with the supernatural. 

While visiting an elderly couple and their grown son 
in an English village, a British soldier, who has just re- 
turned from India, shows them a dried monkey's paw, 
upon which, he declares, an Indian fakir once cast a spell, 
so that by means of it each of three men could have three 
wishes granted him. He tells them that the previous 


owner had three wishes, the last being for death; and 
that he himself had three also, but he refuses to explain 
what the wishes were. He. seems to fear the gruesome 
object and finally throws it on the fire, from which it is 
rescued by the son. The soldier finally consents to the 
old man's keeping it, though he warns him that no good 
will come of it. The visitor then leaves and the old man 
takes the paw in his hand and wishes for two hundred 
pounds to clear their home of its mortgage. The next 
day a stranger comes and tells them that their son has 
been mangled to death by being caught in some ma- 
chinery, and on behalf of the mill-owners offers them 
two hundred pounds. Ten days later the old woman 
again thinks of the monkey's paw, and insists that her 
husband wish their boy alive again. Under protest he 
does as she wishes. In the night they are aroused by 
a familiar rapping on their door. Expecting to see her 
boy, the woman runs to open the door, despite the en- 
treaties of her husband, who remembers the awful con- 
dition of their son's body. While she is struggling with 
the door fastenings, the husband hurriedly finds the mon- 
key's paw, and utters his third and last wish. Imme- 
diately the knocking ceases, and when the woman gets the 
door open, the street lamp flickering opposite is shining 
on a quiet and deserted road. His third wish has been 

8. The Substitute, by Frangois Coppee (1842-1908) ; 
about 3,500 words; written about 1883. A pathetic 
story of unexpected moral heroism (16). 


Jean Francois Leturc " was scarcely ten years old 
when he was arrested for the first time for vagabondage. " 
With a man's cynicism he tells the judge of his check- 
ered life of vagrancy. " Nobody claiming him, they 
sent him to a reform school." When at seventeen he 
was set free, he fell among his old reformatory associates 
and followed their criminal courses. One arrest followed 
another until he had a bad name with the police and at 
length served five awful years at Toulon. When he was 
released he broke bounds and slipped back to Paris. 
Moved by the recollections of early teaching in the 
Brothers' school, he reforms thoroughly and finds a 
friend. " Jean Frangois and Savinien scarcely ever left 
each other. For a while they both throve and expanded 
under this friendship, but Savinien is infected with the 
gay life of Paris, spends too much for his income, com- 
mits a theft, and the gold is found in his trunk. 

" ' Listen,' said Jean Frangois, who came to take his 
(Savinien's) hands. ' I understand you stole the three 
gold pieces to buy some trifles for a girl. That would 
have been worth six months of prison for you. But you 
do not get out of that except to go back again ; . . . 
I have done seven years in the reform school, one at 
Sainte-Pelagie, three at Poissy, and five at Toulon. 
Now, do not get scared. It is all settled. I have taken 
it on my shoulders/ 

" * Poor fellow/ cried Savinien ; but hope was coming 
back to his cowardly heart." 

Jean Francois ended up a life-prisoner at Cayenne, 
registered as incorrigible. 


9. The Cask of Amontillado, by Edgar Allan Poe 
(1809-1849) ; about 2,500 words; Godey's Lady's Book, 
Nov., 1846. A sombre and characteristic Poe story, told 
partly by suggestion; it is compact, swift and climactic. 
The plot is slight, but the manner perfect (2). 

" The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as 
I best could; but when he ventured on insult, I vowed 
revenge. ... A wrong is unredressed when retribu- 
tion overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed 
when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to 
him who has done the wrong." Fortunato is a connois- 
seur in wines, so Montresor, the narrator, professes to 
have a cask of alleged Amontillado which he wishes to 
have judged. Fortunato is in carnival dress, but he de- 
sires to go at once to test the wine. Montresor craftily 
leads him on while professing that Fortunato ought not 
to enter the damp vaults. When they reach Montresor's 
palace the servants are all gone to the carnival, so the 
two at once enter the catacombs which form the wine- 
cellar. Montresor first makes Fortunato drunk, and 
then suddenly chains him to the wall in a dark and re- 
mote niche beneath the river bed. From beneath a pile 
of ancient bones Montresor draws some stone and mortar 
and, despite Fortunato's cries and pleadings, walls him 
up in his tomb. 1 

10. Mrs. Knollys, by F. J. Stimson ("J. S. of 
Dale"), (1855- ) ; about 6,000 words; Century Maga- 

1 Compare Balzac's La Grande Bretsche and Edith Wharton's 
The Duchess at Prayer. 


sine, Nov., 1883. A delicate, poetic story, centering 
about a single novel idea (16). 

The story deals with the steady movement of the great 
Pasterzen glacier, which " rises in Western Austria and 
flows into Carinthia, and is fourteen or seventeen miles 
long, as you measure it from its birth in the snow field, 
or from where it begins to move from the higher snows 
and its active course is marked by the first wrinkle." 

Charles Knollys was a young English government clerk 
who was spending an ideal honeymoon in the Alps, when 
one day he " slipped into a crevasse and vanished utterly 
from the earth/' For many days the eighteen-year-old 
bride would not leave the place but sat and watched the 
crevasse while they made hopeless efforts to recover the 
body. One day a German scientist explained to her the 
character and the movement of the glacier, thus blunder- 
ingly crushing her hopes. A year later, in England, she 
received a letter from the great scientist saying that the 
loss of her husband had caused him to make a more ex- 
act study of the glacier, and assuring her that the body 
would be preserved in that icy world and move down 
with the slow-moving glacier. It might be recovered, he 
said, in forty-five years. And this pathetic hope made her 
willing to live. " There were but two events in her life 
— that which was past and that which was to come." 
And so she waited until at length the five and forty 
years had passed, and, true to the scientist's prediction, 
the glacier delivered out of its mouth the perfectly pre- 
served husband of twenty-one to the bride of sixty- 


ii. The Insurgent, by Ludovic Halevy (1834-1908) ; 
about 2,000 words; written in 1872. A compressed hu- 
man-interest story (16). 

Martin, a Parisian fifty-five years old, tells his story to 
the president of the military tribunal by which he is being 
tried as an insurgent. His father had been fatally shot 
in the uprising of 1830. " By his side, on the litter 
was his gun. 

" ' Take it,' he said to me ; ' I give it to you — and 
whenever there shall be an insurrection against the gov- 
ernment — always, always, always ! ' " — and died. 

The boy was fifteen and in frame a mere child, but he 
offered himself to the Commune, and from that moment 
became what he remained for forty years — an insurgent. 
He was the first to climb the iron fence of the Louvre 
under fire of the Swiss in 1830 — but monarchy still pre- 
vailed. In 1832 he distinguished himself again, and was 
wounded in a chapel of the church of St. Mery. After 
ten years in prison he used to return to the chapel, not 
to pray, but to see the stains of his blood which still 
marked the stones. In prison he had missed the rising 
of 1834. In 1848 he failed again as an insurrectionist 
and was sent to Cayenne, but after four years — in 1852 
(having missed the revolt of 185 1) — he was pardoned 
for saving a French officer from drowning. Back again 
in Paris, he married the widow of an old comrade, and 
a son is born. Under the Empire all was peace, but he 
reared his son in the ideas his own father had given 
him. At length Martin took part in an assault against 
La Villette, and was again imprisoned, but was soon 


released by a change of government. All through the 
risings of 1870 and 1871 he was prominent. " I loved 
revolt for the revolt itself. An insurgent, I told you 
at the start; I am an insurgent. I can't see a political 
club without going in, an insurrection without running to 
it, a barricade without taking my stone to it." 

But after forty years of devotion to revolt, he com- 
plains, " Now you tell me that this insurrection was 
not lawful. That is possible, but I don't quite see why. 
I am getting muddled between these insurrections which 
are a duty and these which are a crime." He gets med- 
als and applause for the one, and for the other, prison, 
exile, death. He is confused and discouraged. All he 
asks is that they deal gently with his son, who is not 
responsible for his father's teachings. 

" As for me, you've got me ; don't let me go — that's 
the advice I give you. I'm too old to change, and be- 
sides, what would you have? Nothing can alter what 
is; I was born on the wrong side of the barricade." 

12. A Light Man, by Henry James (1843-1916) ; 
about 13,000 words ; The Galaxy, July, 1869. A charac- 
ter study, with little action, but handled with the subtlety 
characteristic of the author (13). 

Returning from long residence abroad, Maximus Aus- 
tin (who tells the story in the first person and in diary 
form) receives a letter from his old-time friend, Theo- 
dore Lisle. The letter bears an invitation to spend a 
month at the home of an aged millionaire, Frederic 


Sloane, who has known Austin's mother years before. 
Austin accepts and finds Theodore Lisle settled as sec- 
retary to Sloane, who is an interesting but battered old 
worldling. Three weeks suffice to show Lisle that Aus- 
tin is really " a light man/' and that Sloane has set up 
the newcomer in his affections to the detriment of him- 
self — Lisle. Being in need of the situation, Lisle 
struggles to maintain his hold upon his patron, but 
Sloane finally begs Austin to remain with him to the 
end, offering to destroy his will, which Austin finds is in 
Lisle's favor. Upon being pressed, Austin goes to get 
the will from Sloane's desk, and finds Lisle standing with 
the will and some other papers in his hand. The latter 
asserts his ignorance of the contents of the will, but reads 
it at Austin's request. Knowing now that he is about 
to lose the fortune, Lisle regrets much more the loss of 
his faith in Austin, and so himself destroys the will, and 
bids farewell to the friend he has lost. All this moves 
Austin but a little, and while the men are still together 
the valet announces the death of Mr. Sloane — now 
intestate. The heir-at-law, as nearest of kin — a Miss 
Meredith — telegraphs that she is coming to the funeral. 
" I shall remain till she comes,' , resolves Austin, with 
characteristic coolness. " I have lost a fortune, but have 
I irretrievably lost a friend? I am sure I can't say. 
Yes, I shall wait for Miss Meredith." 

13. On the Stairs, by Arthur Morrison (1863- ) 7 
about 1,600 words. A realistic tragedy, told by sugges- 
tion (27). 


On the stairs of a grimy, ugly, eight-family tenement 
in the East End of London, a gaunt woman pauses as a 
door opens, and a tottering old woman stands in the 
doorway. Her name is Mrs. Curtis, and Mrs. Manders, 
her gaunt neighbor, asks after her sick son. No, he is 
no better. She need not ask the doctor to find that out 
for she heard three spirit raps last night, a sure omen 
— " 'E's goin,' " said the old mother. 

Mrs. Manders rehearses with pride the oft-repeated 
details of the " 'an'some funeral " she had given her hus- 
band with the twelve pounds received from the Odd 
Fellows, and the old dame declares that her son shall 
also be " put away decent " — though she is doubtful if 
the insurance will permit her to afford both hired mute 
mourners and " plooms." At this the doctor's assistant 
comes. When he leaves the sick-room he insists that 
the patient's only chance of recovery is in good port 
wine, but the old mother complains that it is " sich a ex- 
pense." The assistant then gives her five shillings from 
his own small resources, not knowing that the doctor 
himself had given a like sum the day before. But the 
woman puts the money away, and " nothing left the 
room all night. Nothing that opened the door . . ." 

The next morning the gaunt neighbor is the first vis- 
itor. " Ah, 'e's a lovely corpse," said Mrs. Manders. 
" Like wax. So was my 'usband." And now the old 
woman feels able to hire the mutes — " and the plooms 
too. They ain't sich a great expense, after all." 


14. Tennessee's Partner, by Bret Harte (1839- 
1902) ; about 4,000 words ; written about 1870. A hu- 
morously pathetic character study, of Western local 
color (16). 

After showing how such appellatives as " Dungaree 
Jack " and " Saleratus Bill " came to be applied to the 
California gold-seekers, the author takes up his story. 

Tennessee's Partner leaves Poker Flat to procure a 
wife. At Stockton he is suited, and in a week marries 
and returns to Poker Flat. Presently Tennessee makes 
off with his partner's wife, but somebody else soon takes 
her from him. He returns to Poker Flat, and his in- 
jured partner shows no resentment but takes the double 
steal philosophically. 

" Meanwhile a popular feeling against Tennessee had 
grown up on the Bar. He was known to be a gambler ; 
he was suspected to be a thief. In these suspicions Ten- 
nessee's Partner was equally compromised; his contin- 
ued intimacy with Tennessee after the affair above 
quoted could only be accounted for on the hypothesis of 
a copartnership of crime." 

At last Tennessee is detected in a plain " hold-up," is 
pursued, captured and tried before " Judge Lynch." He 
refuses to say anything for himself, but his partner — 
simple, serious, direct and loyal — comes into the impro- 
vised trial-room, and haltingly speaks for Tennessee. 
At length he pulls out of an old carpet-bag his entire 
'* pile " — seventeen hundred dollars in coarse gold, and a 
watch — which he offers as compensation, to " call it 


square." But the gold is indignantly refused by the 
" court," and Tennessee is convicted. " For the first 
time that evening the eyes of the prisoner and his strange 
advocate met. Tennessee smiled, showed his white teeth, 
and, saying, * Euchred, old man ! ' held out his hand. 
Tennessee's Partner took it in his own, and saying, ' I 
just dropped in as I was passin' to see how things was 
gettin' on/ let the hand passively fall, and adding that 
* it was a warm night/ again mopped his face with his 
handkerchief, and without a word withdrew." 

After the lynching Tennessee's Partner is seen near by 
with his donkey-cart. Asking for the body, he places 
it in a coffin he has made 4 and the bystanders join in 
the funeral procession. He buries Tennessee without 
help and then says a few memorial words — full of char- 
acter and simple pathos. Tennessee's Partner does not 
long survive. As he is dying his eyes light up with the 
vision of Tennessee — " ' coming this way, too — all by 
himself, sober, and his face a shining. Tennessee ! Part- 
ner ! ' 

" And so they met." 

15. Where Love Is, There God Is Also, by Lyof 
Tolstoy (1828-1910) ; about 5,500 words; written about 
1890. A didactic story, told with conviction and sim- 
plicity. The Outlook, March 28, 1908. 

Martin Avdyeeich was an honest Russian cobbler 
whose children and wife had died, leaving him with but 
one child, a small boy, upon whom he had set his heart. 


But that child also died, and Martin reproached God. 
A Pilgrim monk, however, directed him to the gospels 
and he became a devout follower of their teachings. One 
day he heard a voice which bade him look to-morrow 
into the street, for Christ would come to him. But He 
did not appear, only a chilled old snow-sweeper, to whom 
Martin gave hot tea to drink, as he explained the gos- 
pel ; and then the grateful old man left. Martin con- 
tinued to look for Christ, but He did not come, though 
he saw a poorly clad woman with a little child, whom 
he fed and warmed, hearing her story and giving her an 
old jacket to cover her thin summer garments. He next 
acted as mediator between an old woman and a mis- 
chievous boy who had stolen her apples ; and to her also 
expounded the new truth which has possessed him — 
the doctrine of love. All day long he had looked for the 
Christ and had not seen him, but now as he returned to 
his cellar a Presence declared itself as He who had 
said, " Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these 
My brethren, ye have done it unto Me." " And Martin 
then understood that his dream had not deceived him, 
and that the Saviour had really come to him that day, 
and he had really received Him." 

1 6. Another Gambler, Paul Bourget (1852- ); 
about 6,000 words; published in 1889. A dramatic, 
psychological study of morbid remorse, done in semi- 
realistic style (20). 

Two young men of good family, Claude and the nar- 
rator, are discussing the suicide of Claude's cousin Lu- 


cien, which has just ended his career of gambling- and 
dishonesty. Claude tells the narrator the following 
story, as illustrating the gambler's faith in fetiches : 

When Claude was a boy he passionately desired a sa- 
bre which hung in the window of a Parisian toyshop. 
Ten francs would buy it, but how should he save so 
large a sum ! One day his cousin Lucien gave him two 
francs as a gift, and at the same time a ten-franc piece, 
which he charged him to give to the first beggar he 
should meet — to insure gambler's luck for Lucien that 
night. The ten francs, he reflected, would buy the sa- 
bre! The boy yielded, in spirit, and gave a blind beg- 
gar the silver coin, keeping the gold piece for the coveted 
sabre. But he suffered torments of conscience. He felt 
that he had brought misfortune — perhaps suicide — to 
Lucien, so he arose in the night, stole out of the house, 
and started off to give the coin to the blind beggar. 
On the way he slipped in the snow and lost the gold 
piece. That night Lucien lost heavily at baccarat, 
cheated, began his vicious career, and ended a suicide. 

17. The Father, Bjornstjerne Bjornson (1832-1910) ; 
about 1,500 words; written in i860. A realistic story 1 
of pathos and lofty spirit, exhibiting compression and 
the power of suggestion (16). 

Thord Overaas was the first man of his parish. One 
day he presented himself at the priest's and asked bap- 
tism for his newborn son, requesting that he be baptized 
alone. As Thord left the pastor prayed that the child 


might prove a blessing to his father. Sixteen years later 
he came to the priest to arrange for the lad's confirma- 
tion, and this time he is proud that his boy will head 
the list. Eight years more, and Thord comes to the 
priest with the request that he publish the bans for his 
son — he is to marry the richest girl in the village. A 
fortnight later the young man is drowned before his 
father's eyes. A year passes and for the fourth time 
Thord comes to the priest. He has changed from a 
robust man to one of bowed form and white hair. He 
lays upon the table half of his wealth, to be invested in 
his son's name as a legacy for the poor. 

" They sat there for a while, Thord with downcast 
eyes, the priest with his eyes fixed on Thord. Presently 
the priest said, slowly and softly: 

" ' I think your son has at last brought you a true 
blessing.' " 

" ' Yes, I think so myself,' said Thord, looking up while 
two big tears coursed slowly down his cheeks." 

18. Mateo Falcone, by Prosper Merimee (1803- 
1870) ; about 5,500 words ; published in 1829. A trag- 
edy, exhibiting local color and marked climax (16). 

Mateo Falcone was a well-to-do sheep-raiser, living 
in the open plateau country of Corsica, whose thickets 
were often the resort of fugitives from justice. One 
day Mateo and his wife set out early to visit one of their 
flocks, leaving their little son Fortunato at home. Sev- 
eral hours later a bandit, limping painfully from a wound 


received from the pursuing soldiery, claims protection 
because of his friendship for Falcone. Fortunato hesi- 
tates, but at sight of a five-franc piece hides the man 
under a haystack. Soon the soldiers come, but threats 
cannot make the boy betray the bandit. A silver watch, 
however, proves an effective bribe. Just as the wounded 
bandit is dragged from the haystack, Falcone returns 
and learns the truth. When the soldiers have gone, 
bearing their prisoner on a litter, the father takes out 
little Fortunato and shoots him as the first traitor in the 

19. The Damned Thing, bv Ambrose Bierce 
(1842- ); about 9,000 words. From " In the Midst 
of Life," 1898. A fantastic story of the supernatural, 
with pseudo-scientific conclusion (14). 

The setting is a small Western community, during a 
coroner's inquest. William Harker, newspaper man, 
who has been visiting Hugh Morgan, the deceased, is 
summoned as a witness, and he introduces in his testi- 
mony a copy of the description of the tragedy, which he 
has sent to the newspaper he represents. He and Mor- 
gan were out after quail, when he heard a sound as of 
a heavy body dragging itself through some nearby 
bushes, and Morgan became violently agitated. He 
ascribed the noise to what he called " The Damned 
Thing," and when a moment later some wild oats not far 
away were bent as though some animal was passing 
through them, though nothing was visible, he fired at 


the spot, then turned to flee. Harker was thrown down 
by the sudden impact of a large, 6oft body flung against 
him with great force. When he arose, he saw his friend 
on the ground some distance away, writhing in an ap- 
parent struggle with something, though nothing was 
visible. He hurried to his assistance, but Morgan was 
dead, his throat horribly lacerated. Harker then noticed 
the same motion among the wild oats as he had seen be- 
fore, only this time the Thing was evidently going away. 
A diary kept by the dead man speaks of " The Damned 
Thing " as a huge, savage creature which cannot be 
seen. Morgan's solution of the mystery was that, just 
as there are sounds which cannot be heard by mortal 
ears, so there are colors which we cannot see. " The 
Damned Thing," he asserted, must have been of such a 
color. The verdict of the coroner's jury was, " We, the 
jury, find that the remains come to their end at the hands 
of a mountain lion, but some of us thinks, all the same, 
they had fits." 2 

20. What Was It? A Mystery, by Fitz-James 
O'Brien (1828-1862) ; in condensed form about 5,000 
words; written in 1859. A realistic story of unex- 
plained mystery (i*6). 

The narrator, Harry, was one of a group of boarders 
who agreed to go with his landlady if she would remove 
to a spacious house reputed to be haunted. For some 
weeks nothing happened, but one night, after a long dis- 

2 Compare with the next plot. 


cussion of ghostly matters with his friend Hammond, 
Harry was trying to fall asleep, when a Something 
dropped upon his chest and clutched his throat. A 
struggle of horrible intensity followed, in which Harry 
was at last victorious. He bound the unseen Thing and 
turned on the light — but saw nothing, though he still 
had one arm around " a breathing, panting, corporeal 
shape." Hearing the noise, Hammond entered the room 
and also touched the Thing, but could not see it. They 
then fastened it more securely and threw it upon the 
bed — which creaked under the weight. Then followed 
prolonged observation of its movements, as shown by 
the bed-clothes. It slept, but neither ate nor spoke. At 
last they secured a plaster mold of the Enigma by giving 
it an anaesthetic. It was in form like a misshapen man. 
For two weeks its heart-beats grew daily feebler, until 
it died. They buried the invisible Horror in the garden, 
and rumor had it that the plaster-cast was to be exhibited 
in a well-known museum. 



I. Diction — The Right Use of Right Words 

i. Use neither obsolete words nor 
words too new to be standard. 

2. Avoid the needless use of local- 
isms and technical terms. 

3. Rarely employ a foreign word 
until it has become naturalized. 

(a) Pure 

(b) Proper 

(c) Precise 

4. Be too alert to use the wrong 
word even if it sounds like the 
right one. 2 
Do not use the same word in 
more than one sense in the 
same paragraph. 

6. Among synonyms, choose the 

word that conveys exactly 
your shade of meaning, both 
in kind and in degree. 

7. Avoid general words when spe- 

cific words will convey your 

1 Adapted from the author's How to Attract and Hold an 
Audience (Hinds, Hayden & Eldredge, New York.) 

2 As, discomfort for discomfit, demean for bemean. 





II. Sentences 

8. Short sentences should be used 
for vigor, emphasis, rapid 
movement, and impassioned 

9. Too many short sentences pro- 
duce a disconnected, jerky ef- 

10. For detail, smoothness, rhythm, 
and beauty, use longer sen- 

11. Use care lest long sentences ob- 
scure the meaning. 

12. Use balanced sentences to bring 
out contrast. 3 

13. To sustain interest, use periodic 
sentences. 4 

14. For easy and informal discourse 
use loose sentences. 6 

15. Learn to use all kinds of sen- 
tences and so avoid monotony. 

r s "If the flights of Dryden therefore are higher, Pope con- 
tinues longer on the wing. If of Dryden's fire the blaze is 
brighter, of Pope's the heat is more regular and constant. Dry- 
den often surpasses expectation, and Pope never falls below it. 
Dryden is read with frequent astonishment, and Pope with per- 
petual delight." — Johnson's Lives of the Poets: Pope. 

4 Grammatically incomplete if ended before the last words. 
" By a curious irony of fate, the places to which we are sent 
when health deserts us are often singularly beautiful." — 
Stevenson: Ordered South. 

5 May be ended earlier and yet be grammatically complete. 



III. Essential Properties of Style 

i 6. Keep your tenses congruous.* 

17. Use the subjunctive only when 
the condition is doubtful. 7 

18. Use shall and will, should and 
would, with care. 

19. " Do not let intervening words 
disturb the agreement of verb 
and subject." — Genung. 8 

20. Rarely place an adverb between 
the parts of an infinitive. 9 

21. Let the sense rather than gram- 
mar govern your treatment of 

(a) Grammatical 

(b) Clearness 

22. Place adverbs and adverb modi- 
fiers close to the words they 
modify. Beware especially ot 
" only." 

"Often, too, they are places we have visited in former years, 
or seen briefly in passing by, and kept ever afterwards in pious 
memory; and we please ourselves with the fancy that we shall 
repeat many vivid and pleasurable sensations, and take up again 
the thread of our enjoyment in the same spirit as we let it 
fall." — Passage immediately following the foregoing extract 

6 "I never was so long in company with a girl in my life — 
trying to entertain her — and succeed [succeeded] so ill." — Jane 
Austen, Mansfield Park, ii, p. 160. 

7 Note the difference in conditions in these sentences : "HI 
be dishonest you are to blame ; " " If I am dishonest, you are 
to blame." 

8 " In these expressions were shadowed out the whole of that 
course subsequently developed." — H. L. Bulwer, Historical 
Characters, ii, p. 336. 

9 Called a " split infinitive," as " to sweetly sing." 





(c) Unity and 



\ 23. Arrange relative and restrictive 
modifiers so that there may be 
no doubt as to what they 
modify. 10 
u Between a word and its modi- 
fier do not put anything that 
can steal the modification." — 

Be careful to use " whom " only 
as an objective, never as a 
nominative. 11 

26. A clause should not be used in- 
stead of a noun, or a pronoun 
as the antecedent of a relative 

27. Let there be no doubt as to 
which, of two or more nouns 
of like number and gender, a 
personal pronoun relates. 

28. Omit no parts not evidently im- 
plied (understood). 12 

29. During the course of a sentence 
do not change its subject or 
shift the standpoint. 

10 Obscure : " I went to see the assistant to the physician that 
you recommended." 

11 Wrong case : " The younger Harper, whom they agree was 
rather nice-looking." — Disraeli. 

12 Error by omission : " The domain of the husband to whom 
she felt that she had sold herself, and [by whom she] had been 
paid the strict price — nay, paid more than she had dared to 
ask." — Daniel Deronda. 



(c) Unity and 

30. The sentence should be com- 

pletely dominated by one main 
thought, and upon that di- 
rectly should each subordinate 
thought depend. 

31. Do not crowd together conflict- 

ing ideas, nor thoughts un- 
naturally related. 

32. Rarely attach relative clauses to 

other clauses which are them- 
selves dependent. 

A too free use of parenthetical 
expressions tends to switch 
thought away from the sub- 

Rarely attach a supplementary 
expression to the end of an 
already complete sentence. 



IV. Special Properties of Style 


r (a)* 'Emphasis 

For emphasis, accord a conspicu- 
ous place in the sentence to 
the main idea, using the other 
parts as a background. 

36. Invert the position of the modi- 

fier to give it emphasis. 13 

37. An inverted sentence-order will 

emphasize the logical subject, 
or principal idea. 

13 "A forehead high-browed and massive. 




(b) Force 

(c) Harmony 

38. By putting subsidiary matter 

first, the logical subject will 
be emphasized (periodic sen- 

39. Repetition of sentence-forms 

sometimes adds emphasis. 

40. Observe proportion, sequence, 

and climax for emphasis. 

41. Plain, specific, short, and strong 

words give vigor to sentences. 

42. Avoid the repetition of ideas, 

and the use of unnecessary 
words, especially connectives. 

43. " End with words that deserve 

distinction." — Wendell. 

44. For weighty force, cut out modi- 

fiers, condense clauses and 
phrases into equivalent words, 
and choose the most emphatic- 
ally direct words. 

45. Do not depend upon italics and 

exclamation points to strength- 
en weak thoughts, weak words 
and weak arrangement. 

46. To secure harmony suit the 

sound of words to the sense. 

47. Select synonyms when it is nec- 

essary to repeat ideas. 

48. Use alliteration sparingly. 



(c) Harmony 

(d) Vitality 

(e) Variety 

49. Arrange your material with an 

ear to the prevalence of har- 
monious sounds. 

50. To give vitality to discourse, use 

direct, idiomatic English. 

51. Distinguish between an idiom 

and a worn-out stock expres- 

52. Avoid the too free use of poetic 


53. Beware the pitfall of a stilted 

and exaggerated style. 

54. Rapid movement is secured by 

suppressing details, and using 
epithet to portray the charac- 
teristic points. 

55. Occasionally affirm a thing by 

denying its opposite (li- 
totes). 14 

56. Used guardedly, circumlocution 

gives variety. 

57. Study the art of recasting sen- 


58. Figures of speech afford variety. 

59. Use epithet — sparingly. 

60. Use suggestion to relieve de- 


14 "A citizen of no mean city."— Paul. 



(e) Variety 

(/) Figures 
of Speech 

61. Vary declarative and interroga- 

tory with exclamatory forms. 

62. Expression may be varied by 

changing- the voice of the verb. 

63. Study the inversion produced by 

introducing sentences with 
" there " and " it." 

64. Learn to change from direct to 

indirect quotation (discourse). 

65. Employ the historical present, 

but not too freely. 

66. Learn how to paraphrase poetic 

into prosaic language, and con- 

67. Practice contracting clauses into 

phrases and into words; as 
well as expanding words and 
phrases into clauses. 

68. For condensed and vivid de- 

scription, use simile, meta- 
phor, allusion, and personifi- 

69. Interrogation, exclamation, and 

hyperbole are used for im- 
pressive assertion. 

70. Apostrophe, and vision (the his- 

torical present), are suited to 
dramatic narration. 

71. For illustration, study the use of 

figures of comparison. 



(/) Figures 
of Speech 

Relation of 

' J2. Do not use figures except where 
you desire to add clearness, 
force, or beauty. 

73. Figures should harmonize with 

the general character of the 

74. Vary the use of figures by study- 

ing many different objects for 

75. Do not in the same sentence mix 

figures of speech with literal 
j6. Figures should neither be carried 
so far as to be incongruous, 
nor used to excess. 

V. The Thought-Divisions 

yy. Each division of the whole story 
should be dominated com- 
pletely by one main thought, 
and upon it directly should 
each subordinate thought de- 

yS. Each such thought-division must 
preserve its unity by including 
only its own logical material. 

79. The several divisions must fol- 
low one another progressively, 
each growing out of its prede- 
cessor, so that the entire series 
may move toward a climax. 



Relation of 


80. The transition from one division 
to another must be smooth and 

VI. The Whole Story 

' 81. Let your style be determined by 
the type of the story. 

82. Do not sacrifice earnestness, in- 

dividuality, and directness, to 
gain literary finish ; you really 
need not. 

83. Subordinate each part of the 

story to the effect of the whole. 



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i. The Standard Dictionary ; Funk. 

2. The Working Principles of Rhetoric, John Franklin 

Genung; Ginn. 

3. English Composition, Barrett Wendell; Scribner. 

4. Every -Day English, Richard Grant White; Houghton. 

5. Likes and Opposites (synonyms and antonyms) ; Hinds. 

6. A Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, P. M. 

Roget; revised by Mawson; Crowell. 

7. Talks on Writing English, Arlo Bates; Houghton. 

8. A Study of Prose Fiction, Bliss Perry; Houghton. 

9. The Study of a Novel, Selden L. Whitcomb; Heath. 

10. The Technique of the Novel, Charles F. Home; Harper. 




I. Books on the Short-story 

1. Albright, Evelyn May; The Short-Story. Macmil- 

lan, 1907. 

2. Barrett, Charles Raymond; Short Story Writing. 

Baker, 1900. 

3. Canby, Henry Seidel; The Short Story; Yale Studies 

in English. Holt, 1902. 

4. Hart, W. M. ; Hawthorne and the Short Story. 

Berkeley, Cal., 1900. 

5. Matthews, Brander; The Philosophy of the Short- 

Story. Longmans, 1901. 

6. Quirk, Leslie W.; How to Write a Short Story. 

Editor, 1904. 

7. Smith, Lewis Worthington ; The Writing of the 

Short Story. Heath, 1902. 
See also numbers 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 
18, 24, and 28, in APPENDIX A, all of which contain 
introductory essays or notes on the short-story. 

2. Books Referring to the Short-Story 

8. Anonymous; How to Write a Novel. London, 1901. 

9. Bainton, George (Editor) ; The Art of Authorship. 

London, 1898. 



ro. Baldwin, Charles S. ; College Manual of Rhetoric. 

11. Besant, Walter; The Art of Fiction. London, 1884. 

12. Cody, Sherwin; How to Write Fiction. London, 


13. Cody, Sherwin, and others; On the Art of Writing 

Fiction. London, 1894. 
14 Dye, Charity; The Story-Teller's Art. Ginn, 1898. 

15. Gosse, Edmund; "Kipling's Short Stories," in 

Questions at Issue. Appleton, 1893. 

16. Hamilton, Clayton; Materials and Methods of Fic- 

tion; Introduction by Brander Matthews. Baker, 

17. Hawthorne, Nathaniel; American Note Book. 

Works, Houghton. 

18. Heisch, C. E. ; The Art and Craft of the Author. 
Grafton, 1906. 

19. Howells, W. D. ; Criticism and Fiction. Harper. 

1891 ; Literature and Life. Harper, 1902. 

20. James, Henry ; " The Art of Fiction," in Partial 

Portraits. Macmillan, 1888. 

21. Matthews, Brander; Aspects of Fiction. Scribner. 


22. Maupassant, Guy de ; Introduction to Pierre et Jean. 

Paris, 1888. 

23. Norris, Frank; The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

(and other papers). Doubleday, 1903. 

24. Pain, Barry ; First Lessons in Story Writing. Lon- 


25. Poe, Edgar Allan; The Philosophy of Composition. 



26. Stevenson, Robert Louis; Vailima Letters; Memo- 

ries and Portraits. Scribner. 

27. Winchester, Caleb T. ; The Principles of Literary 

Criticism. Macmillan, 1899. 
See also numbers 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, in Appendix 
F, all of which contain valuable sections bearing on the 

3. Magazine Articles 

28. Andrews, E. F. ; " Rudimentary Suggestions for 

Beginners in Story Writing." Cosmopolitan, 
Feb., 1897. 

29. Anonymous; "The Short Story." Eclectic, 139: 


30. "B. P."; "The Short Story." Atlantic, 90:241. 

31. Bird, Frederic M. ; " Magazine Fiction and How Not 

to Write It." Lippincott's, Nov., 1894; "Fact in 
Fiction," July, 1895 ; " Bad Story-Telling," Oct., 


32. Black, Ebenezer Charlton ; " The Future of the 

Short Story." International Monthly, I '.205. 

33. Cable, George W. ; " Afterthoughts of a Story- 

Teller." North American Review, 158:16; " Spec- 
ulations of a Story-Teller." Atlantic, July, 1896. 

34. Canby, Henry Seidel; "The Short Story." Dial, 

31:271; "The Modern Short Story;" Sept. 1, 

35. De Leon, T. C. ; " The Day of Dialect." Lippin- 

cotfs, Nov., 1897. 


36. " E. A. B." ; " Fallacies About the Short Story." 

Academy, 63 :396. 

37. Earle, Mary Tracy; "The Problem of Endings. " 

Book Buyer, Aug., 1898. 

38. Editorial; "The Short Story." Harper's Weekly, 

May 23, 1908. Harper s Magazine, Jan. & Feb., 

39. Editorial Comment ; " Have the Plots Been Ex- 

hausted ? " Current Literature, June, 1896. 

40. Fawcett, Edgar ; " Some Advice to Young Writ- 

ers." Independent, May 14, 1896. 

41. Fenn, George; "The Art of Mystery in Fiction." 

North American Review, 156:432. 

42. Fruit, John Phelps ; " The Rationale of the Short 

Story, According to Poe." Poet Lore, 16 157. 

43. " H. H. F." ; " Names in Fiction." Literature, Jan. 

19, 1899. 

44. Hamilton, Clayton ; " The Structure of the Short- 

Story." Reader, Feb., 1906. 

45. Hapgood, Norman ; editorial notes in Collier's deal- 

ing with prize awards in short-story contests. 
Apr. 8, Oct. 14, 1905; Jan. 13, May 26, Aug. 11, 

46. Higginson, Thomas Wentworth ; " The Local Short- 

Story." Independent, Mar. 11, 1892. 

47. Howells, W. D. ; " Some Anomalies of the Short 

Story." North American Review, Sept., 1901. 

48. Martin,, Edward S. ; " Writing." Harper's, Jan., 


49. Matthews, Brander ; " Story of the Short-Story." 

Munsey's, Aug., 1906. 


50. Matthews, William ; " Misleading Titles of Books." 

Saturday Evening Post, Apr. 21, 1900. 

51. Mabie, Hamilton W.; "A Comment on the Short 

Story." Outlook, May 16, 1908. 

52. Page, Walter, Henry Cabot Lodge, and William Al- 

len White; Comments. Collier's, Feb. 11, 1905. 

53. Parker, Gilbert ; " The Art of Fiction." Critic, Dec., 


54. Payn, James; "Story-Telling." Living Age, 146: 


55. Poe, Edgar Allan; "Hawthorne's ' Tales.' " Gra- 

ham's Magazine, May, 1842. 

56. Saintsbury, George ; " Names in Fiction." Mac mil' 

lan's, 49:115. 

57. Smith, F. Hopkinson; "How to Write Short 

Stories." Interview in the Boston Herald, synop- 
tized in Current Literature, June, 1896. 
8. Sully, James ; " The Luxury of Pity." Forum, 5 :8. 

59. Symposium: Robert Barr, Harold Frederic, Arthur 

Morrison and Jane Barlow ; " How to Write a 
Short Story." Bookman, Mar., 1897. 

60. Thompson, Maurice ; " The Domain of Romance." 

Forum, 8:328. 

61. Walsh, W. S.; "Real People in Fiction." Lipping 

cotfs, 48:309. 

62. Wedmore, Frederick ; " The Short Story." Nine- 

teenth Century, Mar., 1898. 
Note: The Editor and The Writer, magazines de- 
voted to the interests of writers, give much space to the 
short-story. See back numbers. 



NOTE : Since this book was published, in 1909, many 
more books and articles dealing in whole or in part with 
the short-story have been brought out than had thereto- 
fore appeared since the day of Poe. It is believed that 
all the important volumes on the subject published within 
these nine years have been included in this supplementary 
list. No attempt, however, has been made to list the 
later magazine articles on the short-story — they are now 
too many for inclusion in a treatise of this scope. Those 
who wish to use to a complete periodical bibliography 
are referred to the cumulative indexes to be found in 
the periodical departments of all large public libraries. 




Canby, Henry Seidel ; The Short Story in English. Holt, 

Gerwig, George W. ; The Art of the Short-Story. Wer- 
ner, 1909. 

Ransome, Arthur ; A History of Story Telling. Stokes, 


appendices 433 

Peck, Harry Thurston; Studies in Several Literatures. 
Dodd, Mead, 1909. Chapters on "Poe," and "The 
Detective Story." 

Chester, George Randolph; The Art of Writing (also 
issued under the title, The Art of Short Story Writ- 
ing). The Publishers Syndicate, 1910. 

Cooper, Frederick Taber ; The Craftsmanship of Writing. 
Dodd, Mead, 191 1. 

Young, Duncan Francis ; The Fiction Writer's Work- 
shop. Editor Co., 191 1. 

Edwards, John Milton (pseudonym) ; The Fiction Fac- 
tory. Editor Co., 191 1. 

Esenwein, J. Berg ; Studying the Short-Story. Hinds, 
Hayden & Eldredge, 1912. 

Pitkin, W. B. ; The Art and Business of Story Writing. 
Macmillan, 1912. 

Smith, C. Alphonso ; The American Short Story. Ginn, 

Lieberman, Elias ; The American Short Story. Editor 
Co., 1912. 

Phillips, Henry Albert ; The Plot of the Story. Stanhope- 
Dodge, 19 1 2. 

Esenwein, J. B., and Chambers, Mary D. ; The Art of 
Story Writing. Home Correspondence School, 191 3. 

Wells, Carolyn; The Technique of the Mystery Story. 
Home Correspondence School, 191 3. 

Phillips, Henry Albert ; The Art of Short Story Narra- 
tion. Stanhope-Dodge, 19 13. 

Neal, Robert Wilson ; Short Stories in the Making. Ox- 
ford University Press, 1914. 

Grabo, Carl; The Art of the Short Story. Scribner's, 


Notestein, Lilian, and Dunn, Waldo H. ; The Modern 
Short-Story. Barnes, 19 14. 

Bennett, Arnold ; The Author's Craft. Doran, 1914. 

Conrad, Joseph, The Art of Writing. Doubleday, 19 14. 
Preface to "The Nigger of the Narcissus." 

Baker, Harry T. ; The Contemporary Short Story. Heath, 

Pain, Barry ; The Short-Story. Doran, 1916. Reprint of 
Earlier English edition. 

Quiller-Couch, A. ; On the Art of Writing. Putnam, 1916. 

Polti, Georges ; The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations. 
Editor Co., 1916. 

Williams, Blanche Colton ; A Handbook on Story Writ- 
ing. Dodd, Mead, 19 17. 

Esenwein, J. Berg, and Stockard, Marietta. Children's 
Stories and How to Tell Them. Home Correspon- 
dence School, 191 7. 


Trent, W. P., and Henneman, J. B. ; The Best American 
Tales. Crowell, 1907. 

Dawson, W. J., and Coningsby ; The Great English Short 
Story Writers. Harper, 1910. 

Patten, William ; International Library of Fiction. Col- 
lier, 1 9 10. 


Hawthorne, Julian ; The Lock and Key Library. 10 Vols. 

Reviews of Reviews, 1912. This is an expansion of 

the six-volume edition of Mystery and Detective 

Ransome, Arthur; The World's Story-Tellers. 9 Vols. 

T. C & E. C. Jack (London), 1912. 
Esenwein, J. Berg ; Short-Story Masterpieces. . French, 2 

vols. ; Russian, 2 vols. Home Correspondence School, 

1912 and 1913. 
Pittenger, L. A. ; A Collection of Short Stories. Mac- 
millan's, 19 13. 
Canby, Henry S. ; A Study of the Short Story. Holt, 191 3. 
Sherman, Stuart P. ; A Book of Short Stories. Holt, 1914. 
Ashmun, Margaret ; Modern Short Stories. Macmillan's, 

Cross, E. A. ; The Short-Story. McClurg, 1914. 
Heydrick, Benjamin A. ; Types of the Short-Story. Scott, 

Foresman, 1914. 
Hale, E. E., Jr., and Dawson, F. T. ; Elements of the 

Short Story. Holt, 19 15. 
Mikels, Rosa M. R. ; Short Stories for High Schools. 

Charles Scribner's Sons, 1915. 
Moulton, Leonard; Short Stories. Houghton, Mifflin, 

Masson, T. L. ; Short Stories from "Life." Doubleday, 

Baker, Emilie K. ; Short Stories and Selections, for Use 

in Secondary Schools. Macmillan's, 19 16. 
Sherman, Stuart P. ; A Book of Short Stories. Holt, 



O'Brien, Edward J. ; The Best Short Stories of 1915, and 

The Yearbook of the American Short Story. Small, 

Maynard, 1916. 
O'Brien, Edward J. ; The Best Short Stories of 19 16, 

and The Yearbook of the American Short Story. 

Small, Maynard, 1917. 
Hart, Nina, and Perry, Edna M. ; Representative Short 

Stories. Macmillan's, 191 7. 
Firkins, Ina Ten Eyck ; Index to Short Stories. Wilson. 


Names of authors whose words or titles are quoted, are printed 
in small capitals; titles of books and stories appear in italics; 
while topics and persons referred to are set in plain type. The 
authors and titles referred to in the chapter on Titles and in the 
Appendices are not included in this Index. 

Action, 228, 251. 

Addison, 191. 

Albright, Evelyn May, The 

Short-Story, 55, 66, 83, 189, 

263, 264, 284. 
Aldrich, T. B., Marjorie Daw, 

77 ; Quite So, 224. 
Allen, Grant, 312. 
Allen, James Lane, 165, 167; 

The Choir Invisible, 169. 
Altsheler, J. A., After the 

Battle, 224. 
Aristophanes, 190. 
Aristotle, 63. 
Arnold, Matthew, 21, 286, 

Art, 308, 309. 
Atmosphere, 97, 151. 
Authors, Methods of, 40. 
Authorship, Preparation for, 


Bach, 307. 

Bacheller, Irving, A Tale of 
Two Burdens, 213. 

Bacon, Francis, 58, 60. 

Background, 160. 

Bagehot, Walter, 56. 

Bainton, George, The Art of 
Authorship, 313, 347. 

Baldwin, Charles S., Amer- 
ican Short Stories, 4, 8. 

Balfour, Graham, Life of 
Stevenson, 97. 

Balzac, Honore de, 9, 158, 159, 
183, 221, 223, 302, 312; Com- 
edie Humaine, 21 ; Esther 
Happy, 184; La Grande 
Breteche, 78, 88, 239, 246; 
Pere Goriot, 185. 

Barr, Robert, 71, 311. 

Barrett, Charles Raymond, 
Short Story Writing, 17, yy, 
203, 220, 246, 264, 266. 

Barrie, James M., 7; Senti- 
mental Tommy, 319; Tommy 
and Grisel, 55; How Gavin 
Birse Put it to Mag Lownie, 

Bates, Arlo, 40; Talks on 
Writing English, 53, 152, 156, 
157, 244, 291. 

Beauty, 185. 

Beranger, 191. 

Besant, Walter, 105, 266, 346. 

Bible, 193, 289; Prodigal Son, 
5 ; Ruth, 5, 29. 

Biography, 24, 116. 

Bird, Frederic M., 47, 48, 69, 
84, 85, 363, 370. 

Black, William, 312. 

Boccaccio, Decameron, 24, 28. 

Body of the story, 173. 




Bourget, Paul, Le Roman Ex- 
perimental, 175. 

Bovee, Summaries of Thought, 

Boynton, H. W., Journalism 
and Literature, 314. 

Brougham, Lord, 322. 

Browne, Porter Emerson, 
Doyle's Debut, 139. 

Brunetiere, F., 287. 

Bryce, James, 312. 

BUFFON, 275. 

Bulwer, 254; The Last Days 
of Pompeii, 169. 

Bunner, H. C, Love in Old 
Cloathes, 121 ; The Docu- 
ments in the Case, 121. 

Burke, Edmund, On the Sub- 
lime and Beautiful, 195. 

Burroughs, John, 312. 

Butler, Ellis Parker, Fleas 
is Fleas, 113. 

Butler, Nicholas Murray, 

Butler, Samuel, 191. 
Byron, 56. 

Cable, George W., 44, 57, 87, 

167, 311. 
Caesar, 163. 

Caine, Hall, 65, 88, 311. 
Canby, H. S., The Book of the 

Short Story, 4, 8, 17, 29; 

The Short Story, 98. 
Caricature, 231. 

Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, 278. 
Carroll, Lewis, Through a 

Looking Glass, 85. 
Cervantes, 191. 
Characterization, 218, 230. 
Characters, 94, no, 128, 133, 

150, 218. 
Character delineation, 247. 
Character-studies, 175, 176, 221, 

Chaucer, Geoffrey, Canter- 
bury Tales, 28, 157, 299. 

Clark, Harrison, The Affair 
of the Browns, 129. 

Classics, 58. 

Climax, 22, 89, 199, 203, 205. 

Cody, Sherwin, The World's 
Greatest Short Stories, 218, 

Coleridge, S. T., The Ancient 
Mariner, 155. 

Collins, Wilkie, 90, 346; Au- 
tobiography, 102; A Terribly 
Strange Bed, 146; The 
Woman in White, 102. 

Comfort, Will Levington, 
The Fighting Death, 156. 

Compression, 24, 291. 

Conclusion, 23, 207, 209, 210. 

Congreve, 191. 

Contrast, 82. 

Copyrights, 359. 

Corelli, Marie, Barabbas, 291, 

COWPER, 345. 

Craddock, Charles Egbert, 167. 

Cramer, Frank, Talks to Stu- 
dents on the Art of Study, 
173, 303, 315. 

Crawford, Marion, 312; The 
Novel: What It Is, 95 ; The 
Upper Berth, 208. 

Crisis, 74, 199, 204. 

Criticism, 60. 

Crcesus, 195. 

Cross, J. W., Life of George 
Eliot, 149. 

Darwin, Charles, 181, 238. 

Daudet, Alphonse, 294; Let- 
ters from My Mill, 117, 140, 
142, 143, 145, 146, 155, 189; 
Monday Tales, 140. 

Davis, Richard Harding, 60. 

Day, Holman, 54. 

Dean, H. B., Pluck Versus Di- 
plomacy, 114. 

Defoe, 28. 



De Forest, J. W., An Inspired 
Lobbyist, 137. 

Deland, Margaret, Many 
Waters, 128, 246, 267. 

Denouement, 205. 

Description, 152, 231 ; Seven 
steps of, 159. 

De Stael, Madame, 306. 

Detective stories, 23, 80, 106. 

Dey, F. V., The Magic Story, 

Dialect, 258. 

Dickens, Charles, 191, 223, 

Dialogue, 127, 244. 

Diary form, 120. 
248; Christmas Carol, 67, 
188, 233; Hard Times, 234; 
Martin Chuzzlewit, 233, 249; 
Old Curiosity Shop, 195 ; 
Our Mutual Friend, 234, 250. 

Diction, 321. 

Didactic fiction, 27. 

Discussion, 59. 

Disr^li, Benjamin, 154. 

Dowden, Edward, 312. 

Doyle, A. Con an, 371 ; Adven- 
tures of Brigadier Girard, 
116; The Leather Funnel, 45 ; 
Sherlock Holmes stories, 32, 
80, 116, 130; The Mystery of 
Sasassa Valley, 137. 

Drama, The, 6, 228, 285. 

Dress, 238. 

Dryden, 191. 

Du Maurier, George, Peter 
Ibbetson, 157, 158. 

Dupin, 79. 

Dyar, Muriel Campbell, The 
Tea Party, 235. 

Dye, Charity, The Story- 
Teller's Art, 177, 243. 

Earle, Mary Tracy, The 
Problem of Endings, 210. 

Edwards, Amelia B., The 
Four-Fifteen Express, 141. 

Eggleston, Edward, 312. 

Eliot, George, Life of, 149; 

Romola, 21, 149, 239; Silas 
Marner, 149, 162. 

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 18, 
116; The American Scholar, 

Emotion, 81, 181, 192, 346. 

Environment, 168. 

Epic, The, 2. 

Episode, 22,. 

Epithet, 156. 

Erichsen, Methods of Au- 
thors, 347. 

Erotic fiction, 185. 

Essays, 8. 

Experience, 54, 58. 

Exposition, 153. 

Eugene Sue, 66. 

Fact and fiction, 63, 67. 
Farce, 68. 

Fawcett, Edgar, 313. 
Figures of Speech, 157. 
Fielding, Henry, Tom Jones, 

Flaubert, Gustave, 160, 229, 

Flower, Elliott, An Error of 

Judgment, 214. 
Flynn, Claire Wallace, The 

Fire Rekindled, 186. 
Fowler, Ellen Thorneycraft, 

Concerning Isabel Carnaby, 

Freeman, Mary Wilkin s, 38, 
54, 159, 167; A Church 
Mouse, 44; The Joy of 
Youth, 112. 

Gardiner, J. H., The Bible as 
English Literature, 194. 

Garland, Hamlin, 167. 

Garnett, Richard, 287. 

Gautier, Theophile, 7. 

Genung, J. F., The Working 
Principles of Rhetoric, 54, 
152, 158, 181, 244. 

Gesta Romanorum, XVI. 

Ghost stories, 80. 



Gissing, George, 312. 

Goethe, 21, 228. 

Goldsmith, Oliver, 85; The 

Vicar of Wakefield, 23, 32. 
Gordy, J. P., New Psychology, 

181, 223. 
Gorky, Maxim, Twenty-Six 

and One, .67. 
Gosse, Edmund, Questions at 

Issue, 64. 
Gould, S. Baring, 166, 312. 
Gras, Felix, The Reds of the 

Midi, 277. 
Gray, Elegy, 299, 351. 
Green, Anna Katharine, 

The Filigree Ball, 19; The 

Sword of Damocles, 299. 

Haeckel, 311. 

Haggard, H. Rider, Allen 
Quatermain, 145, 311. 

Hale, Edward Everett, 312, 
The Man Without a Coun- 
try, 117. 

Hale, Lucretia P., The Spi- 
der's Eye, 144. 

Hains, T. Jenkins, Johnny 
Shark, 24. 

Hancock, Albert E., 13, 317. 

Harben, Will N., 167. 

Hardy, Thomas, Tess, 151, 
239, 292. 

Harker, L. Allen, Mrs. Bir- 
kin's Bonnet, 186. 

Harmony, 284. 

Harris, Joel Chandler, 90. 

Hart, J. M., English Compo- 
sition, 322. 

Harte, Bret, 6; The Luck of 
Roaring Camp, 98; The Out- 
casts of Poker Flat, 82, 240, 
246; The Rise of the Short 
Story, 286. 

Hauff, Wilhelm, The Singer, 

Hawthorne, Julian, 80, 87. 

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 7, 8, 
9, 17, 19, 56, 57> 153, 196, 248, 

280, 293, 312; The Ambitious 
Guest, 224, 246; American 
Note Books, 59, 95, 99; The 
Artist of the Beautiful, 83; 
The Birthmark, S3; Dr. 
Grimshaw's Secret, 99; The 
Great Carbuncle, 81 ; The 
Marble Faun, 170, 276; 
Peter Goldthwaite's Treas- 
ure, 99; The Scarlet Letter, 


Hazlett, 280. 

Hearn, Lafcadio, Chita, 26, 

Heisch, C. E., The Art and 
Craft of the Author, 344. 

Helps, Sir Arthur, Social 
Pleasures, 345. 

"Henry, O.," 38, 54, 113, 233; 
The Reformation of Cal- 
liope, 73, 176. 

Hewlett, Maurice, The Judg- 
ment of Borso, 138; The 
Forest Lovers, 168. 

Hichcock, F. H., The Build- 
ing of a Book, 353. 

Higginson, T. W., 311; Book 
and Heart, 220. 

Hill, A. S., 254; Our English, 
314; Principles of Rhetoric, 


"Hobbes, John Oliver," 311. 

Hoffman, E. T. A., 9. 

Holmes, Sherlock, see Doyle, 

Homer, 156. 

Hood, 191. 

" Hope, Anthony," 38 ; Dolly 
Dialogues, 132, 228, 254; The 
Philosopher in the Apple 
Orchard, 135; Rupert of 
Hentzau, 78. 

Horne, Charles F., The Tech- 
nique of the Novel, 120, 174, 
231, 245, 284. 

Howells, W. D., 75, 86, 94, 
153, 218, 221; Criticism and 
Fiction, 64; Literature and 
Life, 314. 



How to Attract and Hold an 
Audience, 56, 299, 414. 

How to Write a Novel, 155, 
218, 283, 307, 347. 

How to Write Fiction, 94. 

Hugo, Victor, Les Miser ables, 

Humor, see Mirth. 
Hutten, Bettina von, Our 

Lady of the Beeches, 120. 
Huxley, 312. 

Idealism, 66, 67, 231. 

Imagination, 57. 

Impressionism, 20, 97, 285. 

Ingelow, Jean, 312. 

Incidents, 21, 174, 240; Dra- 
matic, 95; Opening, 138. 

Interest, 89. 

Introduction, see Opening the 

Irving, Washington, 7, 29, 
233, 293; Legend of Sleepy 
Hollow, 33; Rip van Win- 
kle, 8, 33, 238; Tales of a 
Traveler, 28. 

Jacobs, W. W., 38. 

James, Henry, 26, 38, 75, 86, 
235; Flickerbridge, 100; Par- 
tial Portraits, 220, 221; The 
Liar, 268; Portrait of a 
Lady, 96; The Tragic Muse, 

Janvier, Thos. A., Santa Fe*s 
Partner, 224. 

Jessup, Alexander, see Can- 

Johnson, Samuel, 85, 123, 
253, 282; Rasselas, 164. 

Juvenal, 191. 

Keats, 280. 

Kingsley, Charles, 275. 

Kipling, Rudyard, 7, 38, 117, 
146; In Black and White, 
146; The Education of Otis 

Yeere, 145; False Dawn, 
144; Jungle Books, 277, 370; 
The Light that Failed, 207; 
The Man Who Would Be 
King, 67, 70, 224; The 
Smith Administration, 98; 
Soldiers Three, 118, 145, 239, 
248, 252; They, 83; Wee 
Willie Winkle, 248; With- 
out Benefit of Clergy, 29, 
70, 188, 201, 246. 

Lady of the Decoration, The, 

Lamb, 191. 
Landor, Walter Savage, 275, 

Lang, Andrew, 311. 
Lanier, Sidney, 229; The 

English Novel, 162. 
Length, 293. 
Lessing, Laocoon, 161. 
Letter-form, 120. 
Literary Agent, 353. 
Local color, 159, 164, 258. 
Locality, see Place. 
Lockhart, John G., Life of 

Scott, 53. 
Longfellow, Hyperion, 342. 
Love element, 22, 183. 
Lowell, J. R., 155, 157, 299, 

Lucian, 191. 
Lundt, Dorothy, Dikkon's 

Dog, 144. 

Mabie, Hamilton W., 308, 
325; Essays on Books and 
Culture, 51 ; Masterpieces of 
Fiction, 16, 69; Stories New 
and Old, 34, 219. 

Macaulay, 191. 

Macdonald, George, 275. 

MacGrath, Harold, The 
Princess Elopes, 164. 

"Maclaren, Ian," see Wat- 



Manuscript, 347. 

Martin, E. S., Writing, 306, 


Materials of fiction, 51. 

Matthews, Brander, 26, 86, 
121 ; Aspects of Fiction, 307, 
369; Philosophy of the 
Short-story, 22, 291 ; The 
Short-story, 4. 

Matthews, William, Hours 
With Men and Books, 345. 

Maupassant, Guy de, 7, 16, 
56, 57, 160, 229, 291, 294, 319, 
324; The Confession, 325; 
A Coward, 29, 81, 99, 211, 
325 ; Fear, 99 ; Happiness, 99; 
The Horla, 121, 188, 208, 
325; Little Soldier, 140, 325; 
Moonlight, 177, 325; The 
Necklace, 69, 235, 325, 326; 
A Piece of String, 44, 224, 
325 ; Pierre et Jean, 298, 315 ; 
Tallow Ball, 325 ; The 
Wreck, 325; The Vendetta, 


Memory, 57. 

Meredith, George, 312. 

Merimee, Prosper, 7; Mateo 
Falcone, 189. 

Michelangelo, 25. 

Milton, 58. 

Mirth, 189, 285. 

Mitchell, S. Weir, Dr. North 
and His Friends, 254. 

Mood, 168. 

Moore, George, 311. 

Montaigne, 191, 280. 

Morrison, Arthur, 311. 

Motive, 83, 284. 

Moulton, Richard G., Shakes- 
peare as a Dramatic Artist, 
94; Four Years of Novel 
Reading, 63. 

"Mulock, Miss," 311, 346. 

Mystery stories, 79. 

Names, 237. 

Rational characteristics, 286. 

Nicholson, Meredith, The 
Port of Missing Men, 19. 

Nodier, Charles, 9. 

Norris, Frank, 160, 181, 312; 
The Responsibilities of the 
Novelist, 290, 309. 

Note books, 60. 

Notes, 344. 

Nott, Charles P., The Tale 
of a Goblin Horse, 144. 

Novel, The, 6, 7, 285 ; how dif- 
ferent from short-story, 19. 

O'Brien, Fitz-James, The 

Diamond Lens, 246. 
Observation, 51, 52, 302. 
Occupations, 168, 238. 
Opening the story, 125, 141. 
Originality, 87, 88, 299. 
" Ouida," A Leaf in the 

Storm, 163, 166, 167, 169, 212, 


Page, Thomas Nelson, 167; 
Marse Chart. 24. 

Page, Walter, 310. 

Parkman, Francis, 312. 

Partridge, Anthony, Passers 
By, 259. 

Pater, Walter, 40, 315; Ap- 
preciations, 319. 

Pathos, 185. 

Perry, Bliss, A Study of 
Prose Fiction, 64, 72, 96, 205, 

Perry, James Raymond, The 
Delusion of Gideon Snell, 79. 

Personality, 239. 

Place, 163, 165. 

Plausibility, 85. 

Plot, 21, 71 ; Complication in, 
74, 75, 84 ; Development of, 
93 ; Essentials of, 84 ; Kinds 
of, 76. 

Poe, Edgar Allan, 7, 9, 17, 
19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 44, 56, 57, 
66, 79, 96, 153, 170, 185, 210, 
248, 312; The American 



Drama, 75, 88, 109 ; Berenice, 
9 ; The Cask of Amontillado, 
88; The Fall of the House 
of Usher, 21, 81, 169, 268; 
The Gold Bug, 44, .116, 224, 
246, 270; Ligeia, 203, 212, 
267 ; The Masque of the Red 
Death, 195 ; The Pit and the 
Pendulum, 69; The Philos- 
ophy of Composition, 100, 
209, 285, 293, 346; The Pur- 
loined Letter, 29. 

Point of view, in, 158, 275. 

Pope, 191. 

Problem stories, 78. 

Proportion, 288. 

Pryde, David, Highways of 
Literature, 199. 

Psychological fiction, 176. 

Purpose, 284 ; see Motive. 

Quirk, Leslie, 76, 89; How 
to Write a Short Story, 310. 

Rabelais, 191. 

Reading, 58. 

Realism, 64, 67, no, 149, 159, 

175, 185, 231. 
Reeve, James Knapp, Vaw- 

der's Understudy, 55, 301. 
Reflection, 57. 
Rejected manuscripts, 363. 
Renan, Ernest, 193, 312. 
Revision, 344, 347. 
Reynolds, Sir Joshua, 284. 
Richardson, Samuel, Pamela, 

120, 211. 
Robertson, Morgan, A Yam 

Without a Moral, 224. 
Romance, 175. 
Romanticism, 65, 231. 
Rollin, Ancient History, 195. 
Rules, Value of, 31. 
Ruskin, John, 25, 52; The 

Elements of Drawing, 347. 

Sacred Books of the East, 5. 
Sadness, 185 

Saintsbury, George, 88. 

Sardou, Victorien, The Black 
Pearl, 224. 

Scarron, 191. 

Scenario, 24. 

Schlegel, A. W. von, Dra- 
matic Art and Literature, 96. 

" Schock, Georg," A Venus of 
the Fields, 246. 

Scott, John Reed, The First 
Hurdle, 254. 

Scott, Sir Walter, 100, 181, 
191, 221, 229, 245; Ivanhoe, 
162; Rokeby, 53. 

Self- study, 56. 

Selling the story, 351. 

Sentiment, 185. 

Sentimentality, 185. 

Setting, 127, 133, 149, 228, 251. 

Shakespeare, 170, 191, 228* 
307, 313; Hamlet, 196, 239; 
Macbeth, 205, 239 ; Two Gen- 
tlemen of Verona, 343. 

Shelley, P. B., Scenes from 
C alder on, 324. 

Sheridan, 191. 

Shute, Henry, The Real 
Diary of a Real Boy, 121. 

Sidney, Sir Philip, 56. 

Sienkiewicz, H., Quo Vadis, 

Simplicity, 84, 85, 162, 289. 

Singmaster, Elsie, The Coun- 
ty Seat, 260. 

Sketch, 25, 150, 176. 

Smith, F. Hopkinson, 17, 60. 

Smith, Sydney, 191. 

Smollett, Tobias, Roderick 
Random, 23. 

Speech, 236; see Dialogue. 

Spencer, Edmund, The Faerie 
Queen, 58. 

Stedman, E. C. 311. 

Sterne, 191. 

Stevens, Abel, Life of Ma- 
dame de Stael, 306. 

Stevenson, R. L., 7, 97, 155, 
223, 229, 235, 302, 312; A 



Gossip on a Novel of Du- 
mas', 236; A Gossip on Ro- 
mance, 175; A Humble Re- 
monstrance, 93, 180; a Lodg- 
ing for the Night, 246; 
Markheim, 29, 239; Mem- 
ories and Portraits, 192, 280 ; 
The Merry Men, 98, 238; 
The Morality of the Profes- 
sion of Letters, 343; A Note 
on Realism, 149; Technical 
Elements of Style in Liter- 
ature, 173; Treasure Island, 
168, 232^ Vailima Letters, 
207; Will o' the Mill, 25, 

Stockton, Frank R., The 
Lady or the Tiger, 78. 

Stoddard, Francis Hovey, The 
Evolution of the Novel, 65, 
182, 219. 

Story-tellers, 1, 3. 

Story-telling, Methods of, 109, 

Style, 40, 275. 

Sub-plot, 21. 

Suggestion, 154. 

Surprise, 77. 

Suspense, 201. 

Sutphen, van Tassel, At the 
Negative Pole, 136. 

Symons, Arthur, 325. 

Sympathy, 195. 

Taine, 312. 

Talent, 306. 

Tales, 4, 24, 26, 27, 28. 

Tappan, 162. 

Tarkington, Booth, Mrs. 

Pr other 02, 246. 
Thackeray, W. M., 223; The 

Ballad of Bouillabaisse, 259; 

De Finibus, 230; Vanity 

Fair, 94. 
Themes of short-stories, 72; 

range of, 41 ; Spontaneous 

choice of, 42; Search after, 

44; Undesirable, 45. 

Theocritus, Fifteenth Idyll, 


Thinking, 302. 

Time, 161. 

Titles, 45, 263. 

Tone, 150, 284. 

Tragedy, 94, 285. 

Training, 307. 

Trollope, Anthony, 312; Au- 
tobiography, 252. 

Truth in fiction, 68, 87. 

Turgenev, 97, 220. 

Turner, 25, 307. 

" Twain, Mark," 38, 54, 68, 
315. 345; Captain Storm- 
field's Visit to Heaven, 134; 
The $30,000 Bequest, 237. 

Tybout, Ella M., The Blast 
of the Trumpet, 130. 

Typewriting, 347. 

Typical characters, 226. 

Unities, 96. 
Unity, 85, 285. 

Van Dyke, Henry, 41. 

Van Vorst, Marie, and Mrs. 

John, The Woman Who 

Toils, 55. 
Verisimilitude, 68. 
Veronese, Paola, 164. 
Viewpoint, see Point of view. 
Vocabulary, 192, 317. 
Voltaire, 79, 191. 

Waliszewski, 287. 

Wallace, Lew, 311. 

Ward, Artemas, 164. 

Ward, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, 


Warner, Charles Dudley, 5; 

Modern Fiction, 176. 
Watson, Dr. John, A Doctor 

of the Old School, 135. 
Wedmore, Frederic, 246. 
Wells, H. G., 86. 
Wendell, Barrett, English 

Composition, 125, 152. 



Westcar Papyrus, 3. 

Weyman, Stanley, A Gentle- 
man of France, 370. 

Wharton, Edith, The Duchess 
at Prayer, 88. 

Whipple, E. P., Literature and 
Life, 189. 

Whitcomb, Selden L., The 
Study of a Novel, 35, 162, 
224, 286, 289, 347. 

White, William Allen, 210, 
308; The Home-coming of 
Colonel Hucks, 292; The 
King of Boyville, 144. 

Winchester, Caleb, Principles 
of Literary Criticism, 184. 

Wit, see Mirth. 

Words, see Diction. 

Wordsworth, 280. 

Wyckoff, Walter, The Work- 
ers, 55. 

Zangwill, Israel, 180. 

Zola, Emile, The Death of 
Olivier Becaille, 115; Le 
Roman Experimental, 64, 

English and American Literature 

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027 211 347 6